Summary: God empowers us to live ethical, holy, upright lives in a corrupt world
Making every effort toward godliness
Soon after Sue and I arrived here 20 years ago, we began to print a simple church directory each year, mostly so that we all had a way to connect with each other. Soon long-time members began to say they were having trouble putting names with the faces of new people and new people were saying they didn’t know who the long-time people were, so we got a Polaroid camera and began to include pictures of people. Today, we use a digital camera, computer, and a copier to produce our directories. And we give the directories to newer people to help them get acquainted with names and faces. Who knows, maybe some day you will be able to press your finger on the picture and you will hear the person’s voice, too!
Every year, the directory changes a lot; it is hard to keep up. People move, change phone numbers, add to their families, new faces show up, and some pass away. But, sadly, if you go through past directories, you will see that lots of people who could be with us no longer are. Every so often, I see people on the streets of Lima who once made a profession of faith, received baptism, and became members of this congregation, but are now wandering about, totally disconnected from this body of believers, engaging in immoral behavior, and seemingly unconcerned that their lives are in eternal danger. And I wonder what happened to them that they slipped away and eventually decided to turn their backs on God. What more should they have done? What more could we have done?
The disaster in New Orleans this past week reminds us what can happen when people live in a city that is built below sea-level. When the storms come, and the winds blow, the city gets inundated with salt water, sewage, chemicals, and muck that destroys not just houses and belongings, but in many cases snuffs out lives as well. And only those who are willing and able to get to higher ground are saved.
In some ways our lives are like that. We can choose to live in the mud and the crud that our society offers or we can get out of the gutter and live on a higher plane. A car salesman here in town describes his life as a journey from the guttermost to the uttermost. An old hymn we used to sing said, “I’m pressing on the upward way. New heights I’m gaining every day.” That should be a picture of the Christian experience as we move forward and upward. One image of the church that Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount is that of a city set on a hill, where it cannot be hid. The church should draw people upward, toward higher ground. Unfortunately, even the church, in its human weakness, has failed often in being what it should be.
Our scripture today draws our attention to the fundamental truth that God empowers us to live ethical, holy, upright lives in a corrupt world. We are focusing on the second letter that Peter wrote. As we read this letter, we soon see that Peter was very concerned that some Christians were sliding down the slippery slope of unholy, immoral, corrupt living, completely forgetting that God had provided the resources to live above the standards that the world around them was setting.
Motivation. What is going on with Peter that he felt compelled to write this letter?
1. The Holy Spirit moved him. If you look at v. 21 you will see that a message from God’s spokesperson is more than a whim. Peter underscores the divine importance of God’s word to us. That word came through the Holy Spirit and men and women spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them. Peter stands in that line of people who articulate God’s plan and purposes. So Peter’s message is not just a human message, it is a divine message with eternal consequences.
2. Peter is coming to the end of his earthly ministry. In v. 14,15, you will see that Peter has the end of his ministry in view. He uses the word “departure,” which in Greek is the word Exodus. When the Israelites departed from Egypt, they headed for the promised land. For Peter, death is not the end, but a departure from this world to God’s promised land. He is feeling some urgency about this message because the Lord has told him that it will come soon. And Peter wants to leave with his readers those values and convictions that will help them live as effective Christians in a troubled world. He wants them to be able to recall what they already know after he is gone. These are things they already know, but he wants to remind them (12), he wants to refresh their memories (13) and he wants them to recall what he has said (15).