Tag Archives: Grace

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

The Practice of Mortification

I recently read this in Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life.  I thought that it was very good and was worth the time to post it.  I hope that you enjoy it!

“The aftermath of a conversation can change the way we later think of its significance. My friend-a younger minister-sat down with me at the end of a conference in his church and said, “Before we retire tonight, just take me through the steps that are involved in helping someone mortify sin.” We sat talking about this for a little longer and then went to bed; I hoped he felt as blessed as I did by our conversation.

I still wonder whether he asked his question as a pastor or simply for himself-or both.

How would you best answer his question? The first thing to do is to turn to the Scriptures. Yes, turn to John Owen (never a bad idea!) or to some other counselor dead or alive. But remember that we have not been left only to good human resources in this area. We need to be taught from “the mouth of God” if the principles we are learning to apply are to carry with them both the authority of God and the promise of God to make them work. Thus our Lord Jesus Himself believed (Matt. 4:4).

Several passages come to mind for study: Romans 8:13; Romans 13:8-14 (Augustine’s life-transforming text); 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 4:17- 5:21; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-11; 1 John 2:28-3:11. Significantly, only two of these passages contain the verb mortify (“put to death”). Equally significantly, the context of each of these passages is broader than the single exhortation to put sin to death. As we shall see, this observation turns out to be of considerable importance.

A Good Starting Place
Colossians 3:1-17 is probably the best place for us to begin. The believers in Colossae were relatively young Christians. Theirs had been a radical experience of conversion to Christ from paganism. They had entered a gloriously new and liberating world of grace. In fact, perhaps-if we may read between the lines-they had felt for a while as if they had been delivered not only from sin’s penalty but even from its influence, so marvelous was their new freedom. But then, of course, sin reared its ugly head again. Having experienced the “already” of grace, they were discovering the painful “not yet” of ongoing sanctification. Sound familiar? Just at this point keen young Christians can be all too vulnerable to “quick fixes.”

But as in our evangelical subculture, quick fixes do not solve long-term problems. Unless the Colossians gained a firm grasp of gospel principles, they were at risk of falling prey to false teachers with promises of a higher spiritual life. That was what Paul feared (Col. 2:8, 16). Holiness-producing methods were in vogue (Col. 2:21-22). Moreover, they seemed to be deeply spiritual, just the thing for earnest young believers. But, in fact, says Paul, such things “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

Not new methods, but only an understanding of how the gospel method works, can provide an adequate foundation and pattern for dealing with sin. This is the theme of Colossians 3:1-17.

Paul gives us the pattern and rhythm we need. Like Olympic long jumpers, we will not succeed unless we go back from the point of action to a point from which we can gain energy for the strenuous effort of dealing with sin.

How, then, does Paul teach us to do this?

NEW IDENTITY
First of all, Paul underlines how important it is for us to be familiar with our new identity in Christ (3:1-4).

How often, when we fail spiritually, we lament that we forgot who we really were.

Christians have a new identity. We are no longer “in Adam” but “in Christ”; no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit; no longer dominated by the old creation but living in the new (Rom. 5:12-21; 8:9; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul takes time to expound this:
• We have died with Christ (3:3; we have even been buried with Him, 2:12).
• We have been raised with Christ (3:1).
• Our true life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3).
• We are so inseparably united to Christ that we will appear in glory with Him (3:4).

Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia-forgetting our new, true, real identity. As a believer, I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin in my heart. You must know, rest in, think through, and act upon your new identity-you are in Christ.

SIN EXPOSED
Second, Paul goes on to expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives (Col. 3:5-11). If we are to deal with sin biblically, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can limit our attack to only one area of failure. All sin must be dealt with. Thus, Paul ranges through the manifestation of sin in private life (v. 5), everyday public life (v. 8), and church life (vv. 9-11; “one another” and “here” indicate the church fellowship).

The challenge in mortification is akin to the challenge in dieting (itself a form of mortification!). Once we begin, we discover that there are all kinds of reasons we are overweight. We are really dealing with ourselves, not simply with calories. I am the problem, not the potato chips! Mortifying sin is a whole-of-life change.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES
Third, Paul’s exposition provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin.

Sometimes it seems as if Paul gives exhortations (“Put to death. – – ,” 3:5) without giving “practical” help to answer our “how-to” questions. Often today Christians go to Paul to tell them what to do and then to the local Christian bookstore to discover how to do it!

Why this bifurcation? Probably because we do not linger long enough over what Paul is saying. We do not sink our thinking deeply into the Scriptures. For, characteristically, whenever Paul issues an exhortation, he surrounds it with hints as to how we are to put it into practice.

This is certainly true here. Notice how this passage helps to answer our “how-to” questions.
1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade-call it “fornication” (v. 5), not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “uncleanness” (v. 5), not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5), not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through the whole section. How powerfully it unmasks self-deception-and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!
2. See sin for what it really is in God’s presence. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts to the cross (kick and scream, though they will), to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads not to lasting pleasure but to holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in unbelievers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (3:7; cf. Rom. 6:21).
3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You have put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9-10). You are no longer your “old self.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The “old man was crucified with Him [Christ], that the body of sin [probably meaning “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). New people live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who we are “in Christ.”
4. Put sin to death (v. 5). It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!

But notice that Paul sets this in a very important broader context. The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).

Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12-17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the gospel of grace, then we begin to make some real advances in holiness. Sinful desires and habits not only must be rejected but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13). As we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v.14), not only in our private lives but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12-16), Christ’s name and glory will be manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17).

These are some of the things my friend and I talked about that memorable Sunday evening.”

Sinclair Ferguson. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Kindle Locations 1826-1877). Kindle Edition.

For further reading:
Putting off involves fostering a new affection
The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers

Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives (1 John 2:1-6)

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1–6 ESV)

John now shifts to a practical line of thinking.  It is interesting that he says that his point in writing this is so that we would not sin – though he already acknowledged that we would (1 John 1:8).  More importantly, John ties the power to walk in increasing freedom and obedience to the atonement of Jesus Christ.  This has nothing to do with “do more and try harder.”  This is a beautiful picture of an atoning God who welcomes you back when you fail.  A good test as to whether you truly understand the gospel and its implications in your life is when you fail, do you run to God or run from Him to try to clean yourself up?  He is the propitiation for our sins – that is, He is the the “sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor,” ESV Study Bible.  This propitiation is not just available to John’s readers, but to all who will respond by faith.

John writes to tell us how to not sin (v1), but knows that we will sin and ensures us that Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins and then goes on to provide us with a test of how to be assured that we are His:  walk in obedience.  This is an interesting and beautiful picture that provides profound confidence in the midst of immense difficulties.  As we grow in Christ like characteristics, we are all the more assured of our election (2 Peter 1:10).  As we experience supernaturally transformed attitudes that flow into obedient actions, we become increasingly more confident that we are indeed elect because we are experiencing God working in our hearts and lives.

If we say that we “know him” and do not keep his commandments then we are lying and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).  If we say we are in Christ, but have no desire to love Him, follow Him or see Him glorified in our lives then we are deceiving ourselves.  Joyful obedience is the evidence of regeneration.  If you can’t or won’t forgive, you haven’t experienced forgiveness.  If you can’t love, you’ve not experienced the love of God.  We must be cautious not to use this as fuel for the self-righteousness that reigns in all of us.  This passage is far more helpful as a diagnostic for our own personal spiritual health and vitality than it is for evaluating that of others.

Obedience is the evidence of transformation.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but not by a faith that stays alone.  As we abide in him, our walk of joyful obedience will increase – as we abide, we will bear fruit (John 15:1-10).  There is an ethical response to grace that we should walk in; the degree to which we will walk in it is the degree to which we will grow in our assurance of salvation.  Our love for God is perfected in our obedience to God.  This love is not a fluffy feeling, but a real, ethical response to the love that God has given to us (1 John 4:19).

Forgiveness is Costly

“At every point in the Bible, the writers are at pains to stress that God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God could not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wronged can “just forgive” the perpetrator. If you have been robbed of money, opportunity, or happiness, you can either make the wrongdoer pay it back or you can forgive. But when you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.

Keller, Timothy (2009-10-20). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (Kindle Locations 1117-1121). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Cornerstone

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; it is in His righteousness alone that we will stand faultless before the throne.  Once we have been freed from believing that we are justified OR ACCEPTED based on our performance we begin to see that obedience to Christ’s commands actually lead to greater joy.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
He is Lord
Lord of all

Christ alone
Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.

Enemies of Christianity from Within the Church

There are many enemies to Christianity.  The greatest enemies come in the form of different ways we seek to save ourselves.  Every other religion is about things you must do to be saved, but Christianity is about what God has already done to save us.  What makes us Christian is our acknowledgement that we can’t save ourselves, and our confession that Jesus Christ did for us what we could not in coming to save us. Some of the biggest enemies of the Christian faith in the Southern United States are: Cultural Christianity, Moralism, and Legalism. Whether we look at the church as the organization, or the church as the people, both are promoting and pushing these enemies of Christianity as ways to be saved.

The goal of Cultural Christianity is doing religious activities to be saved. Cultural Christianity tells us that we are good with God if we do religious things for or to God.  Christianity becomes event and meeting driven, but doesn’t apply to other areas of my life such my work, family, marriage, friendships, time or resources.  We are saved by our church attendance, serving in some capacity at the church, how many bible studies we are involved in, or small group community involvement.  While these are things we do to worship and experience God, we turn them into an end in themselves as good works that save us.

The goal of moralism is behavior modification. In moralism, we seek to just be a good behavior to show we are a good person or Christian. We live by a certain code of goodness, whether defined some principles of Christianity, our culture, or even ourselves.  In their book Gospel Coach, Scott Thomas & Tom Wood address moralism and its dangers, “We rely on our own moral ability or on the way other people perceive us as good, moral people. Moralism leads to methods of behavior modification where we seek to change what we do without addressing who we are as sinful people.”  Being a moralist, we seek to save ourselves by our own goodness therefore God must accept me.

The goal legalism is keeping the rules. Self-righteously, we believe we can keep God’s rules. Legalism says we are saved by the grace of God, but here are the rules you must now follow in order to keep that grace or dare I say add to grace. The legalist wants everyone to just “be a better Christian” by following all the right rules, and forgets about the grace that saved them.

The goal of the gospel is freedom.  “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39” The good news is God sent Jesus is his love for us, and gave us grace in Jesus coming to save us.  The law could not save us, but is gracious in showing us we can’t save ourselves. We need someone outside of us to save us. It is good news because Jesus saves us from our sin by living the perfect life we could not.  He paid the penalty of sin, which was death. He willingly took our place on the cross dying our death.  He resurrected from the grave defeating sin, and now he is alive reigning and ruling with God.  We place our trust in what Jesus has done, and not what we can do to save ourselves. We believe the gospel frees us from sin and self-effort in trying to save ourselves.  Now we are freed to know God, to love God because he first loved us, and love others as God has loved us.

We respond to this good news of the gospel of Jesus in repentance & belief.  We repent of trying to save ourselves even in our good works whether church activity, good behavior, or trying to keep the rules.  Paul says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21.” We nullify the grace of God when we try and save ourselves. So we repent of trying to save ourselves, and we turn in belief to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There he meets us with grace, and makes us new people in Christ.  The gospel brings freedom, and we need to watch out for enemies of the gospel that spring up in the church.  There is only one gospel and it is found in who Jesus is and what he has done to save us.

Guest Post by Clay Adkisson (@clayadkisson)

Job & Noah’s Righteousness

“And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

“If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no one may pass through because of the beasts, even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

“Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Let a sword pass through the land, and I cut off from it man and beast, though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered.

“Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

“For thus says the Lord GOD: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord GOD.””

(Ezekiel 14:12–23 ESV)

These verses might strike us strangely because the bible overwhelming communicates that no one is righteous before a perfectly holy God.  We were dead, enemies, objects of wrath, rebellious and wicked (Ephesians 2:1-3).  So when we come across verses like these, it may seem like the bible is contradicting itself.  The bible always interprets the bible so there must be something else going on here.  The context of this passage in Ezekiel is regarding the severity of judgement that is to come.  Noah saved 7 additional people because of his “righteousness” and Job interceded for his moron (my interpretation) friends and God “heard his prayer” (Job 42:8–9 ESV).  But despite their previous ability to intercede on behalf of their friends & family, their righteous lives would not be enough to save anyone in light of how egregious the people’s current sinfulness was.

Neither Ezekiel (nor God) are trying to communicate that these men were perfectly pure or holy; the intent is to communicate that these men were morally upright & did what was right in the eyes of God and others.  They are like what we would describe as a “good guy” today.  We know what we mean when we say that someone is a good guy – faithful to their wife, honest, a hard worker, etc…Morally upright.  That is what the bible is communicating regarding these men.  Indeed, Noah blows it big time after the flood when he gets drunk and passes out in his tent “like a redneck on vacation” (Mark Driscoll’s commentary from Genesis 9:21 from On the Old Testament).  Job also had an overwhelming sense that he could successfully argue his case before God and win – does that sound familiar?  We know how that worked out for him!

Ezekiel is communicating that even though these guys were morally upright and that they saved others from judgement, the current sin was too great for them to save anyone but themselves.  When we see judgement in the Old Testament it is ultimately pointing to the destruction of the wicked at the end of the world.  This is most poignantly seen in the destruction of men, women & children when the Israelites take the promised land (that is a whole other discussion!).  How do we avoid this judgement & destruction?  By being perfectly righteous.  There are only 2 ways to be righteous – live a perfect life and obey all of the commandments all of the time or trust in Someone who would do that for you.

The most beautiful thing about this passage and ultimately about “righteous” Noah & Job is that God would accept the righteousness of another on our behalf.  It was Noah’s righteousness that saved his family.  Jesus is the true and better Noah.  It is by Jesus’ righteousness that we are saved.  So do we strive to rest on our own righteousness or are we grateful and rest upon the righteousness of Another.  This is seeing Jesus in the story of Noah.  The story of Noah points outside of the judgement & destruction brought by the Flood to the True Noah that would deliver many more than seven from the ultimate flood of God’s wrath & ultimate destruction.  Job interceded on behalf of his friends (Job 42:8-9) at the command of God.  Did God hear his prayer because he was righteous?  Yes.  The text points outside of itself to One who is truly righteous and intercedes on behalf of far more than just three friends.  Jesus is the true and better Job that sits at the right hand of God and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34).

It is not through our moral striving and obedience that we are righteous and accepted before God.  Though we may be good compared to others, we are far from righteous!  It is by faith, belief that we are made righteous.  Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 which is quoted 4 times in the NT:  Romans 4:3, 22; Galatians 3:6 & James 2:23).  It is beautiful to see that Noah’s righteousness was imputed to his family and Job’s intercession on behalf of his friends was heard by God.  We have a much better Noah & Job.  Rest on Him and not on your own righteousness.

The Lord is Patient Toward You

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”(2 Peter 3:8–10 ESV)

This is a very controversial passage of scripture around which many arguments have erupted.  This seems to be one of the primary passages that we gravitate towards when we want to place our own freewill at the pinnacle of the bible.  But, before we can come to any conclusions regarding this passage, we need to understand the context of it and what the Apostle was attempting to communicate to His readers.  Far too often, we grab a verse that sounds nice and begin to apply it without ever having a good understanding of the context and the author’s intent.

The first question we need to answer is who the letter is addressed to?  Peter writes this letter from prison in Rome and knows that he will soon be executed for his faith (2 Peter 1:14-15).  The letter was written to Christians (2 Peter 1:1).  In the opening verses of this epistle, Peter affirms that there are no tiers in Christianity. He is an apostle – He walked with Jesus, personally – but, their faith is equal to his (1:1).  There is no varsity squad &  junior varsity squad in Christianity.  Their faith is equal to our faith. Our faith is obtained by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This faith was obtained – we did not possess it on our own. It is a gift that was earned by the righteousness of Christ.  Peter calls Jesus God here which is one of the strongest New Testament arguments for the divinity of Jesus.

Why did Peter write this letter?  Peter is in Rome nearing his imminent execution (1:12-15) so what He covers in this letter is of utmost importance in his mind.  He covers such sweeping themes as God’s grace toward us and it’s centrality in our ongoing sanctification, the pursuit of holiness, the Lord’s patience towards us and He combats false teachers & scoffers who had managed to work their way into the church and were doubting God’s presence & faithfulness.

We want to gravitate towards the part of this passage that says that God “is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9b).  What is truly unbelievable is the preceding part of this verse that says that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you” (3:9a).  That is spectacular!  Don’t run past it!  What we perceive as slowness is really God’s patient mercy.  If I were God, I would have ended it all at Genesis 3 or 6:5-6, so the fact that we have air, gravity, water, a planet to inhabit and enjoy is nothing but His benevolent grace towards His creatures that want nothing to do with Him; we want His blessings & gifts, but don’t really want Him.  All of us – believer & nonbeliever alike – are recipients of His common grace.  If this part does not wow you and cause you to worship the Almighty then you are missing one of Peter’s main points!

The broader context of this verse helps us because it is eschatological in nature. It is titled, “The Day of the Lord Will Surely Come (3:1–13).”  What Peter is combatting is what the scoffers have been saying in the church – that God is distant, disconnected & slow in acting (3:1-7).  There is much connection between Peter’s Jewish eschatological beliefs (see Habakuk 2:3) and the point that He is making here.  The Word Biblical Commentary is quite helpful in interpreting this section of the passage.  It says, “God desires all, without exception, to repent and escape damnation. But (“all”) is clearly limited by (“you”). There is no thought here of the Christian mission”  The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Here it is for the sake of the repentance of 2 Peter’s Christian readers. No doubt repentance from those sins into which some of them have been enticed by the false teachers (2:14, 18; 3:17) is especially in mind.  We need not suppose that the author put the false teachers themselves entirely beyond possibility of repentance and salvation, but here he addresses his readers, who are distinguished from the false teachers (3:5, 8, 17).”

God takes not delight in the destruction of anyone that bears His image – even the most wicked.  He is connected to them and derives no pleasure in their destruction.  Though we have seen that the “all” in this passage is limited by the “you,” some will still use this passage to argue that it is the will of God that all people on planet earth be saved.  All people are clearly not saved so one of these must be true:
1) God is not able to save all people,
2) Some will not turn to God because their free will prohibits them,
3) Peter (and Paul) are lying, or
4) God has another purpose.

It is interesting that God seems to desire something that does not come to pass. He certainly has the power, so why not fulfill His every desire?  He desired that Adam & Eve would not have sinned and He desires that we walk faithfully to His revealed will.  We rarely walk faithfully, so God does not always fulfill His wants.  Some would say it is because He is is a gentlemen and will not force Himself upon anyone. This sounds nice to my flesh, but is contrary to the overall teaching of the scriptures. God has many desires that are not met (yet) because they all come under his ultimate desire – that He be glorified.  Some would disagree with this and teach that God’s greatest desire is for human free will.  If I’m honest, I like this because it appeals to my sense of control over my destiny, to my ability to choose, to my autonomy and control over my life (kind of sounds like the original sin, doesn’t it!).  But, if I’m intellectually honest – my free will has never been my friend, it has always been my enemy.  I always chose (apart from God’s regenerating my heart) what I saw as best and most beautiful – which was always me, my sin and my way and NEVER GOD.

One of the overarching themes of the scriptures is God’s electing love. God chooses people to shower His affection on – not because they are worthy of it or because they sought it. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He chose Joseph over his brothers, He chose, David, the prophets, and Moses.  Men did not chose Him, they did not seek Him. God’s glory is most shown by redeeming a rebellious people. He is most glorified when He takes the heart of a dead man and makes it new, when He showers him with His saving love and that man comes alive. He is most glorified when He takes a dead heart of stone and makes it a soft, sensitive heart of flesh.  This is the power for us to love even when the love of others is not reciprocal.

Paul helps us with this in Romans 9:  “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”” (Romans 9:11–26 ESV).

God gets no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11) – indeed there is a sense of sorrow & remorse at the destruction of that which was created in His image.  The problem is that we lack the ability to come to God, apart from Him calling us. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Some will say, “yes, no one can come unless God calls” (Jesus said so over and over in the gospels, especially in John) so God calls some (or all, depending on one’s belief) and those who respond of their own free will are saved.  The problem with this theology is what the rest of the bible teaches; this is man centered, intellectually lazy & theologically shallow.  There are challenges with the sovereignty of God in election and salvation, but by far and away the continuous theme in the scriptures is one of God’s effectual, electing love.  We would rather stop short and avoid asking all of the questions. There are mysteries, for sure, but there are not nearly as many as we’d like to lazily believe.  When we face these mysteries, we must ask Who & what is ultimate?  God’s glory or ours?  If we are the ultimate determining factor in salvation then we are most glorified.

All of history is in the hands of the Lord and it is moving to the climax of Jesus’ return and restoration of all things.  Verse 9 is in response to the scoffer’s accusations in the immediately preceding verses saying that God is absent, disconnected, aloof and slow to act.  Peter says, “no He is delaying because He is patient with you – He is providing an opportunity for more people to respond to the Gospel by faith.”  God is indeed slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).  God’s patience is a central theme in the Old Testament and indeed it is a central theme in our own lives.  It is beyond me how the perfect holiness of God tolerates the continual rebellion and perversion of His creatures.  This is the definition patience.  Though He is long suffering, He will not tolerate it forever – His wrath will be spilled – and rightfully so!  He is patient, but His patience with sinners will eventually expire and all that there will be is His just wrath and judgement.  In the meantime, His patience are meant to lead you to repentance.  Will you repent & believe?

Our inheritance hinges on His promises, not our faithfulness

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11–13 ESV)

The apostle returns to a theme from his first letter as he reminds His readers that this world will come to an end and Jesus will make all things new.  He wants to remind them that our inheritance is secure and is coming – this truth is a major key to living a godly life. This is a gospel promise – because Jesus will return and everything here will be remade, let us strive to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.  There is a world, an existence, a country, a territory in which God will reign and no sin will exist.  The perfect paradise in the presence of God that is marked by a rhythm & rest for the soul will return.  Is this not part of the reason that God permits or causes difficulties, hardships or persecutions?  Is it not to wake up our dead hearts and eyes to the fact that this world is indeed transient and that we need to set our eyes on the world that is to come? Yes!

The implications of this truth are profound! Are you struggling with the approval of others, a difficult interpersonal relationship or bumping up against the falleness of the world?  This world is not all that there is and because of that you can endure, engage and invest – knowing that in some mysterious way God is using it to redeem this world.  You don’t have to be accepted, comfortable, respected or loved because you are all of these things (and so much more) as God’s adopted child.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we will experience them in true satiating fullness in the world to come; you are able to walk in joy without receiving acceptance, comfort, respect or love in this world. There are no 10 tips to a happier life – this is the truth for living a godly life.  Peter says that our efforts towards holiness have some mysterious effect on the coming of the Lord. This sounds like a practical outflow of the Lord’s prayer (your kingdom come, your will be done).  But thank God that all of this hinges on His promises, not on our faithfulness.  We aren’t faithful, but He was so we can walk in a confidence that is not rooted in our performance but in His perfect performance that He imputed to us.

God’s Grace is the Foundation of the Christian Life

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”  (2 Peter 1:2–4 ESV)

The grace that Peter introduces in these verses serves as the foundation upon which the entire epistle is written.  As Peter nears the end of his life, the grace of God in Christ Jesus is what he desperately clings to.  So should we.  We never move beyond or past the grace of God, like a building whose entire structure rests on its footings, so does our Christian life.  Our faith is built 100% upon the footing of God’s grace.

His divine power has been granted to us.  This infinite power accomplished our salvation and gives us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness.  What?  This infinite power saves us and empowers us to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, let us put Him on, let us wear Him (Romans 13:14).  This power is recognized by the knowledge that He called us to His own glory and excellence.  The knowledge that He has called us is the power that fuels our sanctification – it is grace fueled sanctification.  It is God who has copiously provided the infinite resources of His power to us because we could never do it ourselves.  John Calvin summarizes this section like this, “He refers to the infinite goodness of God which they had already experienced, that they might more fully understand it for the future. For he continues the course of his benevolence perpetually to the end, except when we ourselves break it off by our unbelief; for he possesses exhaustless power and an equal will to do good.”

More than just granting us His divine power, He has granted to us His precious and great promises.  He has promised to provide all things through Christ.  These are gospel promises.  The promise of forgiveness, of imputing to us Christ’s perfect obedience (making us positionally holy – as if we never sinned), of adopting us as children, of giving us Himself through the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our future inheritance.  These are spectacular promises!  And these promises are what make us partakers (partners or sharers) of the divine nature.  As His image bearers we are already more like God than anything else in all of creation, though fractured by the fall.  As we grow in actual holiness by the power of His Holy Spirit, we become more like God – that is more accurate reflectors of Him.  We are to pursue holiness, not mere morality.

The Christian has been delivered from the corruption of the world that finds its roots in sinful desire.  These roots have been severed, though their shoots may still be growing in us.  Thus the call of scripture to put to death (Colossians 3:5) that which is sinful with in us.  The Holy Spirit indwells the life of a believer of Christ so that we are truly partakers of the divine nature.  Let us marvel at the unmerited favor of a perfectly holy God to a completely rebellious people.  When we were at our worst, He saved us.  When we didn’t want Him, He made us new.  When we were dead, He made us alive.  When we were His enemies, He made us His children.  When we were cold and apathetic, He gave us new hearts to desire Him.  When we were objects of His just wrath, He made us His friends.  The more you marvel at these great truths, the more you find yourself transformed in to His Image.