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Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Ultimate “Compliment” That Peter Paid To Paul

There is a wonderful little insight that comes at the end of 2 Peter, and it has to do with how we come to know that the New Testament is the Word of God. Peter is discussing the Apostle Paul’s writings, and what he says is almost funny: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand…” Hah! Those who have tried to understand Romans 11 know just what he’s talking about. Take a look at the context…

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

That last phrase almost seems a “throwaway” comment, except that nothing in the Bible is throwaway. So, when Peter says, “…as they do the other Scriptures,” he is saying something momentous. The Greek word Peter uses for “Scriptures” is “graphe” and it is what Bible scholars would call a technical term. In other words, whenever you see the word “graphe” in the New Testament, it always refers to the Old Testament. Always.

And to a Jew like Peter, Scripture, or as we know it, the Old Testament…was beyond compare. You see, Simon Peter was not using the word “Scripture” in the sense that we sometimes say other faiths have their scriptures, Muslims – the Koran, and Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. No, no, no. “Graphe” was a precious word to Peter and the other Apostles. So, with that said, do you see what Peter is doing? He is equating Paul’s writings with other parts of the Bible. He is saying that Paul wrote Scripture. Peter is saying that Paul wrote the Bible. Now, in some ways that should be no surprise to a Christian, because we are used to understanding the New Testament as the Word of God, but if you have ever wondered what they thought of one another’s writings, now you know.

The Apostle Paul does the same thing, only with another portion of the New Testament.  Paul writes to Timothy…

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18 (ESV)

That first phrase about muzzling an ox is from Deuteronomy, so it’s no surprise that Paul refers to it as Scripture, but the second phrase is not found in the Old Testament, but in Luke’s Gospel (10:7).

So the New Testament writers were referring to one another’s writings as Scripture, and the early church, of course, followed course and did the same. It’s a fascinating little study, and one that gives me a measure of delight. I hope you too.

For Friday, November 20th: 1 John 1

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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10 Signs of a False Teacher

False teachers are not just a “2,000-year-ago phenomenon”. Christians today can easily be caught and enslaved by their ideas. They are not just men and women who preach in so-called churches (though they are that), but they are also talk show hosts (one used to have a book club), as well as teachers in middle schools, high schools and Universities. They are people you go to work with who like to espouse their views. These items that Peter pointed out certainly don’t hold true for all false teachers, but they are a good starting point…(I have included the text of 2 Peter 2 for you to easily compare notes.)

  1. Their teaching is destructive. (vs. 1)
  2. They deny the uniqueness of Christ and the atonement. (vs. 1)
  3. They have many followers. (vs. 2)
  4. The Gospel is maligned because of what they teach. (vs 2)
  5. Greed is often a motivator. (vs. 3, 15)
  6. They will be eternally condemned. (vss. 4 – 9, 12, 17)
  7. Their teaching results in immorality. (vss. 10, 14, 18)
  8. They despise authority, perhaps especially biblical authority (vs. 2, 10, see also 2 Peter 1:16 – 21)
  9. Their ideas seem good and fruitful, but in the end are empty, vacuous. (vs. 17)
  10. They promise freedom, but are actually enslaved to sin themselves. (vs. 19)
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;

5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked

8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction,

13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,

16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.

19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:1-22 (ESV)

 

For Thursday, November 19th: 2 Peter 3

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When the Morning Star Rises…

Satan’s tactic all the way back to the Garden of Eden has been to call into question the truthfulness of Scripture: “Has God said…?” – the question he has planted in the minds of believers again and again through the centuries.

So, when false teachers came amongst the Apostle Peter’s followers, they apparently followed the same Satanic strategy…and Peter rose to the defense. He began by reminding them of his life-changing experience on the Mount of Transfiguration:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV)

And he said that this incredible experience powerfully confirmed the Scriptures…

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Peter 1:19 (ESV)

We always do well to pay attention to the “prophetic word”, Peter’s terminology for the Scriptures. But take note of what he compares the Bible to…he says it is like a lamp shining in a dark place.

That’s what it feels like doesn’t it? The world is getting darker and darker, and shining the lamp of Scripture lights the way for us. Of course, we still stumble and fall often…for it is yet night.

But Peter says, the dawn is coming. The day will dawn and the morning star will rise in our hearts, and at the deepest level possible…we will know.

These days we shine the flashlight of His Word to navigate through a very dark world, but on that day the bright Sun will shine, and night will be no more, and we will know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we will know because we will see with the blazing light of midday that all we had hoped in  and all we had hoped for through the long night…was true.

For Wednesday, November 17th: 2 Peter 2

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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It’s (Not) Hard To Be Humble…Yet

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:5-6 (ESV)

Do something with me – think about a famous Hollywood star like Will Smith or Angelina Jolie.  Now, one of the worst things you can say about a star today is that they are a diva – demanding their way, treating people badly, etc. Diane and I used to watch a show called the Pretender – the main character was a super smart guy who could become any kind of person, do any kind of job he wanted and all along doing this he was solving crimes and such.  But since that show was cancelled, I haven’t seen the star anywhere else, and somewhere I read that he was quite a difficult person to work with. Maybe that’s why.

My point is that today humility is a very attractive character trait, even amongst secular people. And yet, when we think about humility, we don’t realize that our worldview is 180 degrees different from the worldview of Ancient Rome.  In that culture, if you said someone was humble, you were not complimenting them – you were calling them a name. It is fascinating to note that for the Greeks, humility was a character quality that made you weak and despised. It was the quality of a slave.

But Christianity turned this all around…humility is mentioned 270 times in the Bible and it’s almost always positive, so much so that in today’s world, if you say someone is humble even outside of Christian contexts, it is considered a compliment.

The lesson? Christianity has an effect on the culture – and people are mistaken who think that you can remove the Bible and expect everything to be the same.  Maybe for a generation or a generation and a half, but the positive effects of Christianity won’t last, and you end up with a society that you and I would never want to live in.

 

For Tuesday, November 17th: 2 Peter 1 (we should be back on track if you are an Edgewood person who received a handout for the Inspired readings – believe it or not, some unnamed person – with the initials RK – gave James six chapters and 1 Peter four chapters. Oh well.)

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Sober Up…So That You Can Pray

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7 (ESV)

One of the reasons that people don’t pray well is that they live in a cloud. They may be praying, but they are not praying soberly.

Certain situations come upon us in life, and they make us sober up. You know where I’ve seen this a number of times?  In marriage counseling. Mostly it’s men. Through years of pastoral ministry, I’ve seen guys come to me and they say, “Pastor, I can’t believe it, my wife wants a divorce.  Tell her not to divorce me.”

And then I’ll say, “Well, tell me the story.”  And when the man begins to do that, almost invariably, he begins to allude to the fact that he has not treated his wife very well through the years. He has neglected her through working too much or spending the evenings with his buddies, or he has treated her like a hired girl, or just taken her for granted, or whatever.  And sometimes it goes on for 10, 20, 30 years.

And you know what happens – one day, she comes and says, “I want out.  I’m divorcing you.” Now, she may or may not have a biblical reason, but one thing is sure – she is just too tired to take it anymore. And the moment she says that, do you know what happens?  I’ll tell you what happens…He sobers up. Now you get it, right? He wasn’t necessarily drunk.  He was just a fool living in a cloud…and now he’s awake. Now, he looks at this wonderful woman who has put up with him through the years, and he snaps to attention.  It’s like he was dreaming and now he wakes up.

Aside from coming for a visit to see me, a man in this situation will begin to act quite differently…if she gives him a chance.  He will begin to realize what he had, and his life will change.  He will sober up.  And if that man is a true Christian, I’ll tell you what else he will begin to do…he will begin to pray.  He probably hasn’t given very much time to praying about his marriage in the past, but now that he’s sobered up, he starts to pray.  And he will pray as if everything depends upon his prayers.

Now listen to what Peter is saying:  Wake up!  The end of all things is at hand.  It’s smelling salts for an unconscious man.  It’s a cold slap across the face. The end is near. Therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the sake of your prayers.

This is the kind of spirit we have to have if we want to pray well.  You see, a lot of people pray; not many people pray as if their life depends on it, as if their children depend on their prayers, as if their marriage depends on their prayers, as if their church depends on their prayers.  Many people pray, but I doubt that most of them pray…soberly.  To be sober in prayer is to understand what is at stake, and when you understand that, you get blood earnest.  And earnestness in prayer is one of the great keys to prayer.

“The Devil is aware that one hour of close fellowship, of hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year.” – John Flavel

“If I had only prayed more…”  “Oh, that I had prayed a hundred-fold more!” – Dr. Andrew A. Bonar

For Monday, November 16th: 1 Peter 5

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What To Remember When You Walk Through Suffering

There are people who say that God never wants His children to suffer, that He only wants “blessing” for us and that suffering is never His instrument for this blessing. This, however, is a lie and if you believe it, you will spend much of your life in despair.

You see, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. The Apostle Peter writes…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.  1 Peter 3:13, 14 (ESV)

My junior year in college was literally the worst year of my life. By the end of fall semester that year I was put on academic probation, and it felt like everything was falling apart…and I was a Christian. I had struggled with OCD and panic attacks, and my mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They wanted to help but had no real idea how to do so.

But God was doing a work in my life – I went into that year a proud young man.  And by the end of the year, like Nebuchadnezzar after his insanity, I was deeply humbled, a different person, no longer thinking so highly of myself.  And even more than that, God was doing something in my father’s life.  I had been praying for his salvation since I had come to Christ 3 or 4 years before, and toward the end of my junior year, my dad, age 63, became a Christian. His words as I remember: “Son, I told you if I ever did this you would be the first to know, and today I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”

Later I asked him what led him to finally bow his knee to the Lord. And he said, at least partly in reference to what had been going on with me: “I just didn’t have the answers.”

In other words, hindsight has shown me that God was doing glorious things through the pain I was experiencing.  He was making me more like Jesus, and he was showing Don Knowlton that he needed Christ.  My dad is in heaven today at least partly because of the painful trial I went through that year.

The Lord works suffering out for our good, even if we bring it on ourselves. Romans 8:28 is our rock in this – God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now Peter is going to go on to say, far better that you suffer for doing right than that you suffer for doing wrong, but the point is this:  in God’s economy, suffering is often the instrument of blessing, not the opposite.

If you don’t understand this, whenever you suffer you will be in despair and unable to rejoice like the Biblical writers tell us to – because you won’t be able to connect the suffering with the often unknown good that God is doing. And He is always doing good for those He loves, even through suffering.

For Friday, November 13th: 1 Peter 4

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How To Recognize Love

On January 13th, 1982, Air Florida flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport (now Reagan National) bound for Fort Lauderdale. 30 seconds after taking off, the aircraft struck the 14th Street bridge and careened into the Potomac. Of the 79 souls on board, only 5 survived. And of those who died, the one who will long be remembered is 46-year-old bank examiner, Arland D. Williams Jr.

From a Washington Post article dated January 14, 1982 (before Williams’ name was known), “A Hero – Passenger Aids Others, Then Dies.”

He was about 50 years old, one of half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. To the copter’s two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a lifeline from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. The helicopter crew who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner, lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. Then the lifeline saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage and the helicopter pilot, Donald W. Usher, returned to the scene but the man was gone.

When I say that Mr. Williams will be long remembered, I speak the truth: When the bridge that the airplane destroyed was later rebuilt, it was named in his honor. And for good reason, for Mr. Williams’ silent message to his fellow passengers on that day was heard loud and clear: “I’ll stay here in the frigid water…you go to warmth, safety…and life.” In other words, I’ll take your place…

I’ll die for you.

They call this substitution…offering yourself in someone else’s place. And according to Jesus, there is no greater act of love (John 15:13).

And this is exactly what the Apostle Peter is speaking of in the second chapter of his first letter…

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

He dies…we live. He is wounded…we are healed. Peter’s imagery and thinking here is mightily influenced by an Old Testament prophet who first showed us the substitutionary death of the Messiah:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned– every one– to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV)

The common themes are powerful – Peter and Isaiah both say we were straying sheep…they both say that somehow His wounds healed us…and they both say that He took our place of punishment. He was our substitute.

Growing up, on Sunday afternoons my mom often played an album with a song entitled He Could Have Called 10,000 angels

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But he died alone for you and me.

This is love: the Lifeline to safety was dropped, but Jesus passed it on…to you and me.

For Thursday, November 12th: 1 Peter 3

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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