3 C’s of 2 Peter

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Shortly before the Apostle Peter’s death (ca. AD 67), he penned an inspired message “to those of like precious faith.” We call the letter, 2 Peter. It is a short epistle, a mere three chapters. But it contains vital warnings against error and false teachers along with exhortations to continued growth and hope in the Lord’s return.

One can easily outline the book according to the three chapters, The 3 C’s of 2 Peter.

  1. Cultivate Christian Character (2 Peter 1). Christians are taught to develop certain spiritual virtues and assured that if they practice them in life, they will never be unfruitful in their service to God nor miss out on heaven (2 Peter 1:5-11). Peter also directs them to the confirmed Scriptures as the source for their faith and doctrine. Scripture is inspired and it can be correctly interpreted by anyone, not just preachers, pastors, professors, or some other kind of self-professed “expert” (2 Peter 1:19-21). This assurance in Scripture is vital because…
  1. Condemn False Teachers (2 Peter 2). Peter warns the Christians that God’s people have always contended with false prophets and now false teachers would trouble the saints. They would deny Jesus and lead many astray. God has and will differentiate between true teachers and true followers as well as the false and the wicked (2 Peter 2:1-11). Peter describes the coming false teachers in terrible terms: covetous, beasts, corrupt, deceptive, adulterous, accursed, etc. (2 Peter 2:12-17). Though their works should manifest their hearts, many saints will be enraptured with their licentious teachings and return to the captivity of sin. Thus, some will lose their salvation (2 Peter 2:18-22). And judgment is coming…
  1. Confidence in the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3). False teachers have little interest or need to warn people about judgment. Such unpleasant teachings fail to tickle ears. Peter warned that the truth of the Lord’s return will be scoffed at (2 Peter 3:1-4)! Thus, living with the Day of the Lord in view will draw ridicule from the world, and likely the false teachers and backsliding saints will also mock it (see 2 Peter 2:1-2, 12-13). But God’s Word has created the world, destroyed it with the flood, maintained it until this day, and decreed the world’s ultimate destruction in fire (2 Peter 3:5-7). If it hasn’t happened yet, it is because God considers time differently than we do and His longsuffering and desire to see people saved is not yet exhausted (2 Peter 3:8-9, 15). But because Christians are confident in the Day of the Lord, they will live like He’s coming tomorrow (2 Peter 3:10-15). Saints will heed Peter’s warning and be about the business of living and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18).

Reading this letter is great way for any Christian to begin the day. It sparks us onto growth, warns us against satanic wiles, and reminds us that today could be the day that we meet Jesus! Can you remember the 3 C’s of 2 Peter?

By Andrew Roberts

“A Little Lower Than the Angels” Or a Little Better Than an Ape?

 

 

 

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Where did we come from?

What could be more human than contemplating this great question? Human beings are unique among God’s creatures for pondering and debating their origin. Yet God’s true word, the Bible, reveals the simple and wonderful facts of the matter.

On the sixth day of Creation, God made all animals that walk on the earth (Genesis 1:24-25). He spoke them into existence and they came forth from the earth. Then God created man separately, in His own image (Genesis 1:26-8). God intended man to have dominion over all of the earth and over all of the animals. Man is not (and never was) just another animal. Man is superior to animals. He did not descendant from them.  In the details recorded in Genesis 2:7, 18-24 it is clear that Adam found no animal comparable to him. Without Eve, Adam was alone, though he was surrounded by animals.

People are not animals. Some people teach that they are simply animals. Some people act like a bunch of animals (to their shame). But the Bible is clear. “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Consider Jesus Christ. Part of His unique role in God’s redemptive plan involved dying to pay for our sins (make propitiation – 1 John 4:9-10). In order to die, He shared in “flesh and blood” with all the people (Hebrews 2:14). He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He “came in the likeness of men” and was “found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7-8). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…” (Hebrews 2:9).

You see, He was fully God and fully Man at once. I’m comfortable saying with Paul that it is a great mystery how “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). But I believe it. And to be man – flesh and blood human – is to be a little lower than the angels; not a little better than an ape. Humanity is not equal to the animals. Humanity is closer akin to spiritual beings than terrestrial beasts. We are a little lower than the angels.

But some people don’t see aspiring angels in their fellow man. They only see lucky apes. They approach life from Old-Earth-Evolutionary presuppositions. The planet is a billion years old. The dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. Some ape-like creature was transitioning into modern humans over the past 2 million years. Here we are today trying to figure out which apes or ape-like creature people descended from.

I read about a cartoon where a princess kissed a frog in one frame and in the next frame she is kissing her prince charming. The caption read: “If a frog instantly transforms into a prince that is a fairy tale. But if a frog transforms into a prince over 300 million years, that is Evolution.”

Well, the October issue of National Geographic details the latest find of a supposed missing-link ape-like creature called Homo naledi. A cache of fossilized remains was discovered in a cave system in South Africa in 2013. It is thought that between 15-18 specimens are being reconstructed from the extant fossils. No one knows how old the bones are or how they came to be in the cave.

While the magazine offers beautiful photographs of artistic models and paintings of what Homo naledi looked like, the artists had to use imagination to fill in the gaps of fossil evidence. Page 37 says, “While primitive in some respects, the face, skull, and teeth show enough modern features to justify H. naledi’s placement in the genus Homo.” But when one sees the fossils pictured on pages 44-48 it is clear that there is no complete skull at all, and the face bones themselves are missing. Only the top of skulls, one lower mandible and partial upper teeth plates have been recovered. Thus there is no way to know if the creature had a “flat” face like a human being or the more elongated and sloped face of an ape.

According to the article, Homo naledi has shoulder blades, a flared pelvis, and long curved fingers all consistent with apes. It also has a small braincase consistent in size with smaller extinct apes. But its legs are long, its hand could probably hold a tool, and its foot looks pretty human. Their working hypothesis is that Homo naledi is a transitional fossil and probably the root of the human family tree. Thus today, humans are a little better than an ape.

I think this is a fascinating story of paleontology and discovery. It is neat. But I’m not persuaded this is the missing link which finally demonstrates Man’s evolutionary chain. Currently, the evidence would also support the hypothesis that a new species of extinct ape has been recovered or perhaps it shows there was more variation in the extinct ape Australophithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) than previously realized.

Ideas have consequences. If people accept the opinion that humans are evolved from animals – just a better breed of ape – it can impact them negatively. But when we remember that we are created in the image of God, and closer to angels than animals, it informs the way we look at life positively.

  • Human life is sacred. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
  • We are responsible to treat our neighbors, animals, and the environment “humanely.” We have dominion and the stewardship that comes with it (Genesis 1:26, 28).
  • We can look up, knowing that we aspire to be God’s servants and to exist with Him in heaven.

We’re only a little lower than angels! Let’s remember who we are and live like it this week!

By Andrew Roberts

Adultery, Sin, and The Ashley Madison Affair

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Millions of philandering (and would-be-philanderer) spouses were “outed” last month when the Ashley Madison website was hacked. The personal information of 39 million users from 53 countries was leaked. Aftershocks from these revelations were felt from the Pentagon to the pulpit.

A bevy of investigations was launched among government employees over the security breach. Some of the exposed website users committed suicide. Others resigned from their work or lost their job – including Ashley Madison’s CEO. It was even reported that some 400 clergy resigned publicly from their ministries on Sunday August 30, 2015.

The Ashley Madison website offered a simple product: Adultery. Their trademarked slogan was, “Life is short. Have an affair.” For one subscription price, the website would moderate customer information to help facilitate a potential affair for users. But for a premium rate the website practically guaranteed an extra-marital affair.

Yet the adulterers and adulteresses face terrible consequences for their sin. Publicly there is scandal, disgrace, and potentially unemployment. Privately there is broken trust, broken hearts, and possibly divorce. Some adulterers even go to rehab.

So how did the Ashley Madison website persuade people to pay for the privilege of losing everything?

Ashley Madison offered an approach to the sin of adultery that promised, “Sin is safe.” They marketed a particular temptation. For the disenchanted spouse, or simply the curious, this company presented the illusion that adultery is easy, fun, popular, fulfilling…and no one will ever know.

This is always Sin’s pitch. One can replace adultery with any number of unrighteous deeds that the Bible condemns and see people running headlong into them because they are deceived.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NKJV.

Sin does not work the way Ashley Madison promised. The Bible tells us how sin really works. There is a “passing pleasure” with it (Hebrews 11:25). But then sin “brings forth death” (James 1:15). And “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Do not be deceived. There is no safe sin. An Ashley Madison approach to sin says three things, all of which are false!

  1. Sin is safe as long as it is inconsequential. “Life is short. Have an affair.” This echoes another lie that the Bible exposes, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Life is short but it does not follow that we should indulge every appetite. There are consequences – temporally and spiritually. There is a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-49). There is a final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). There is eternal life to be gained and perdition to be avoided (Matthew 25:46). Life is short. Eternity is long. Don’t have an affair! Don’t think your sins do not impact yourself, your family, or your neighbors. Don’t think that you won’t answer for it to God. Sin has consequences. It’s been said that sin takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you can ever pay.
  2. Sin is safe as long as it is consensual. “We’re all consenting adults here.” Who consented? Fallout from this Ashley Madison affair shows that while millions of people subscribed, clearly millions more were neither consulted nor consented. God’s Word is the moral authority, not personal inclinations. Righteousness is declared by the Word of God. Sin is identified and condemned by the Word of God. God never consents to sin and since life is short, His judgment matters the most (John 12:48).
  3. Sin is safe as long as it is concealed. Ashley Madison’s brand is a beautiful woman shushing the world with her fingertip. The Ashley Madison website promised discretion, absolute secrecy, and identity protection. But hackers showed they could not deliver. Such secrets rarely stay hidden in this life but nothing is hidden from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Hebrews 4:13). No sin is safe.

My heart breaks for the millions of homes shattered – to different degrees – over the Ashley Madison affair. The media cycle has moved on but the families are still picking up the pieces.

Yet it would be a tragedy compounded not to learn from this situation.

Know that everything the Bible says about Sin and Temptation is true. You will feel inclined and deceived into involving yourself with it, but in the end it will ruin your life and damn your soul. Neither Ashley Madison nor Satan himself can deliver on all that Sin promises.

Know that if you invested the time and money romancing your spouse rather than cheating on them, you might be pleasantly surprised by how fulfilling marriage can be. This is an application of the Bible truth: you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7).

Know that there is power to conquer sin. While this post has explored some of the deception and pain involved with sin, God loved us too much to allow Sin and Death to be the final words in our story. The gospel really is good news because by Christ’s cross there is forgiveness and reconciliation with God that can lead to forgiveness, peace, and healing between all of sinful mankind – even wounded spouses.

By Andrew Roberts

 

Facing Death with Terra Cotta Warriors

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I’ll never forget taking my kids to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. As we toured their exhibit, China’s Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, I came face to face with a twenty-five-hundred-year-old Chinese General. As I learned about these full-scale sculptures, it brought to mind the Scripture:

“For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7.

But China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (260-210 BC), could not have disagreed more. He invested an estimated 70,000 craftsman over three to four decades constructing an elaborate underground city for his burial, complete with a population made of clay. Until relatively recently, tales of Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis were a favorite Chinese legend.

In 1974, rural farmers accidently discovered the emperor’s ancient burial complex while digging a water well. As archaeologists began investigating the area in the Shaanxi Province, they unearthed an army of elaborate, life-sized, terra cotta sculptures. 1,000 of an estimated 8,000 terra cotta warriors have been excavated. There is believed to be 130 full scale chariots and 670 horses as well. Qin Shi Haungdi’s terra cotta army includes Generals, Infantrymen, Archers, and Cavalrymen, as well as Acrobats, Musicians, and Birds. Each sculpture held an actual tool or weapon and thus far, no two faces are alike.

This emperor approached death as he did life – he intended to reign. Qin Shi Huangdi managed to conquer all of China’s warring regions and consolidate an empire. He was a violent man and paranoid about his rule. While his tomb has not been opened, excavations and histories demonstrate that he killed sons suspected of treachery, his wives were buried alive with his body, and all of the workers and craftsman involved in constructing the necropolis were executed to prevent grave robbery. Like the Pharaoh’s of old, this Chinese ruler believed he would need a palace, provisions, riches, and even an army to serve him in the afterlife.

Today the terra cotta warriors stand at attention; a silent witness of one man’s plan to face death. While his materialistic approach demonstrates he was wholly unequipped for the spiritual realities of death, no one can accuse him of taking his death lightly.  Over 30 years he contemplated and prepared for what should happen after he died.

It is good to ponder death (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). King Solomon of ancient Israel (reigned ca. 970-930 BC) also considered death. With wisdom from God he wrote, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Indeed, death is the great equalizer – rich or poor, king or peasant, wise or fool – the time comes to die. “And how dies a wise man die? As the fool!” (Ecclesiastes 2:16; see also Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Furthermore, in Psalm 89:47-48, Ethan’s contemplation is found, “Remember how short my time is; For what futility have you created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”

How many of our neighbors in American society truly ponder death for even 30 minutes a year, let alone a 30 year public works building project of terra cotta? Like other ancient rulers, Qin Shi Huangdi saw himself as the Master and the Potter. But Scripture teaches us that the truth of the matter is people are the clay, not the potter. We do not need to craft things to serve us in death but allow God to mold us in life that we might serve Him today and glorify Him through death (Romans 14:8).

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand,” Isaiah 64:8.

By Andrew Roberts

With God’s Word

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Do you want God to speak to you?  Would you want to hear the audible voice of God? Maybe sometimes we wish God would speak to us audibly. We want to hear His voice. After all, there are certain preachers who claim that God speaks to them. They say, “God told me this,” or “Jesus was speaking to me the other day.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all hear God?

Or maybe we feel like our circumstances and difficulties are so unique that only direct audible speech could guide us. We have tough decisions to make and wish God would shout from on high and tell us exactly what to do.

Yet, I highly doubt those preachers actually hear God’s voice. Some of them are truly hucksters and liars; others are likely just overanxious leaders thoughtlessly using charismatic jargon.

Furthermore, I don’t think we would necessarily enjoy God speaking to us audibly. The Bible talks about people God spoke to directly and they did not like it very much.

For one reason, God’s voice was a terrifying experience. Folks are fond of the Elijah story where God spoke in “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). We figure we could handle that. But that is more the exception than the rule. God spoke to Job from a whirlwind (Job 38:1; 40:6). In the book of Job, great winds blew over houses (Job 1:19)! We forget God spoke on Mount Sinai and that the Israelites did NOT want God to speak directly to them (Exodus 20:18-21). Similarly, at the voice of God, men fell down afraid (Matthew 17:5-6) and even mistook His voice for thunder (John 12:28-29).

Secondly, when God spoke to people, He did not talk to them about what they wanted to talk about. He said what He wanted to say. He told Abraham to start moving cross-country without naming a destination (Genesis 12:1). The Bible does not indicate that Abraham had been praying about making a move in his life. Or God directed Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2). There’s no way that had been a question on Abraham’s heart! Job faced terrible circumstances and he thought he was ready to demand answers from God (Job 23:1-7). But once God started talking, Job could only cover his mouth (Job 40:4). God was not inclined to answer a single one of Job’s complaints (Job 38-42).

No, God does not speak to His people audibly today. And since God is all-wise, I’m going to say that is not a bad thing. Know that God has already spoken to you! He speaks to His people every day and any time of day through His Word, the Bible. God speaks through the Scriptures, the Bible. The 66 books of the Bible (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament) are inspired – God breathed!

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16.

The 66 books of the Bible are not called inspired because they are in the Bible. Rather, they are in the Bible because they are inspired. The Bible is the collection, or library, of Scripture – God-breathed writings.

There is no other God and there is no other Scripture. The Bible is God’s revealed truth, His revealed will for our lives.

With God’s word, we are shown our world, how to understand it, and how to operate in it correctly. With God’s word Christians receive their standard for Faith and practice. With God’s word we have guidance for our lives: knowledge, wisdom, and counsel. With God’s word the great questions are answered: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

Not only this, the Scripture is the standard we are given whereby to judge anyone who claims that God is speaking audibly to them (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 14:37)! Great care and discernment is required when listening to anyone who claims that God is speaking to them.

As we read the Bible, study it, meditate upon it, and devote our heart to it, the Holy Spirit works through the word in our lives. The word of God is the Spirit’s sword, after all (Ephesians 6:17). It is living and double-edged (Hebrews 4:12). When we take it up, it is He who wields it to

  • pierce our hearts
  • slay sin, error, and doubt
  • wage the great war for the souls of men against the evil one

Instead of waiting for thunder, read your Bible. The Bible is God’s true, constant, accessible, and near voice in our lives. Let’s start every day reading it. And let’s be sure to launch out on a new week with God’s Word.

By Andrew Roberts