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.