Summary: God has called us to right living in a world that has a lot wrong with it
Last Wednesday evening, a student from ONU joined our group to do an assignment he had for a class. He was supposed to visit a church and then write a report. He found our church through our website and called us to be sure we were meeting. I’d love to read his report.
Every day I’m reminded what a privilege it is to serve as pastors in this congregation, not just to see your faces every Sunday, but
• to hear testimonies of your faith,
• to see the children come for Sunday school,
• to observe the dedication of teachers, board members, and janitors,
• to learn about the ways you help and encourage one another,
• to experience your fellowship.
Nothing can take the place of being a part of the body of Christ and I know that many of you are praying that your friends and family members will join you here someday. As one of you said to me recently, after reflecting on your experiences, “Why wouldn’t my family want to be here with me?” and another said “I strained my head last Sunday looking for my friend to come in the door.”
As I studied II Peter 3 this past week, I found an expression that made me think that Peter felt the same way about the congregations he knew. Four times in this chapter he uses the word “Beloved,” a word that expresses the admiration, affection, and close relationship he must have felt. And each time he uses the word, it seems to be connected with a statement of his concern for them. For example, after his first use of “beloved” in 3:1 he asks his readers to “remember.” After the last one in verse 17 he tells them to “beware.” You can find two others in between.
The word “beloved” becomes all the more important when we realize how concerned Peter was for the spiritual well-being of the Christians in these congregations scattered over the countryside. After all, when you feel close to someone, you don’t want to see that person fail. You want the very best for him or her. And that was Peter’s goal. He was trying to encourage and renew the faith of those Christians who were living in a toxic environment. We can see Peter’s concern for their spiritual and moral character all through the chapter, but it comes to a climax in the last paragraph. Sue pointed out last week that in chapter 2 we don’t find even one command, but in the last paragraph of ch 3 alone, we find four.
14 Strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish
15 Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation
17 Beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.
18 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
These four summarize II Peter and all of them can serve as helpful guideposts.
1. Without spot or blemish. You will remember that when the Katrina hurricane disaster was unfolding in New Orleans, news reports showed photos of the floodwaters that had become a toxic stew from all the garbage, human waste, rotting corpses, along with oil, gasoline and other chemicals that had spilled into it. People were warned to get out because the polluted water was dangerous to their health.
We all know it’s hard to stay healthy in a contaminated environment. The pollution in our physical world has caused untold misery from illnesses and deformities. Spiritually and morally also, our world is a mess. For many, financial gain has taken top priority, but life itself has become cheap. Honesty and integrity have taken a back seat to personal pleasure. Sexual relationships have become more important than commitment. Our radios and televisions spew out worthless drivel that eventually numbs people’s minds.
But God has called his people to remain pure even while living in an impure, vulgar environment. In some ways it’s like a rose among brambles or a lonely little petunia in an onion patch. In 2:13 where Peter writes about those who indulge in the flesh and have turned against God’s authority, he calls them blots and blemishes. Anyone who has tried to polish a car or sand a piece of furniture knows how damaging blots and blemishes can be. They detract from value and beauty.
Throughout the Bible, God calls us to holy living that is different from the putrid, toxic swamp around us. Christians are to be pure, without spot or blemish. Eph. 5:27 says that Christ wants to present the church to God “without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes so that she may be holy and without blemish.” We are called to be in the world but not of it. Paul said in Rom 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” God’s people live with a mindset that contrasts with those who live by the values of this world. Christians live not to please themselves, but to please God. And, as Peter writes in chapter 1, God has provided the resources to do it. He has given us his precious and very great promises, so that thru them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world. Have you allowed God to transform you? Do you stand out in this polluted world as one who reflects God’s character or have you kind of melted into the environment? Strive to be found by him without spot or blemish.