Week 8 – These Are The Last Days

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Welcome to our last week of our 1 & 2 Peter. This has been a wonderful study that has challenged us and hopefully grown us.

Peter has had a lot of hard things to say in this letter, but in chapter 3 he begins to switches gears and starts off by addressing his readers as “dear children” to remind them  of the affection he has for them.  An affection like a father has for his children, who speaks hard truth in love. He is concerned for their spiritual well being and wants to “stimulate them to wholesome thinking.” He desires his readers, and us, to be aware of the dangers that surround us, particularly when it comes to false teachers and the fact that truth is only found in Christ.

Peter tells us in these last days we will encounter scoffers and those who follow their own evil desires.

Christians often get upset and are even surprised when the world acts in a way that is contrary to the gospel. Peter is telling us that this should not surprise us because this is how people act who don’t have a heart for God and his way.  They mock, they are skeptics, they blow off truth.

It is natural that non-Christians don’t want God mentioned in public. It shouldn’t surprise us that the world not only tolerates sin, but celebrates it, calling evil good and good evil.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Is. 5:20

The world is perishing. The world is headed towards hell. And Peter says, these are the last days.

What does that mean for us? While there are many things that we could say about this, I want us to focus on two things

1. Persevere

Life can become very frustrating and discouraging. Not only do we see the sin around us, but we also are very aware of the sin inside of us. I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged easily.  But remember who lives in you, God the Holy Spirit! And he will continue to teach you and guide you through the Word of God.

I can guarantee you that there will be hard days ahead for all of us in various degrees.When we enter these hard times remember that Christ is coming!  Keep trusting Jesus and his word. Know the promises found in scripture and find hope and joy in them.

The best way to persevere through this life is to always focus on the cross. That is where our hope is found. That is where our salvation was bought, that is where the lost are found and become a part of God’s loving family. That is where our joy is made complete. Because through the cross Jesus becomes ours, and we are his, and with him we receive all the spiritual blessings talked about in the Scriptures.

2. Preach

It is easy to get wrapped up in this world and to think it will go on forever, but  the days of God’s patience are coming to an end. He is extending a huge amount of grace on the world, but judgment is near and we need to tell everyone of God’s offer of forgiveness through his son, Jesus.

Often times our minds go to our neighbors or other people we know who need to find Jesus – and this is good, but this is also true of those people who live in our homes. Our children need to hear the good news of the gospel constantly. Maybe some have unbelieving husbands; they need to hear and see the gospel lived out and talked about. Maybe some have siblings or parents living with them; they, also, need to hear the beautiful promise of the gospel.

So our challenge for this week is this:

Commit to praying, and

  1. Search your own heart and life to see where you may been tempted to take God’s word lightly and to compromise his truth.  Ask him to not only keep you from compromise, but, instead, to really love truth with all of your heart, mind and soul.
  1. Make an opportunity to share the good news of Christ’s death with someone who needs to hear it. This could be your kids, other family members, friends or even strangers.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

Week 8 Reading Plan:

Week8

 

Week 8 Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK8

Week 8 Challenge:

Weekly-Challenge-8

Protecting Ourselves Against False Teachers

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From its birth to present day false teachers have troubled the Church. Paul warned Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus; who “concerning the truth have erred” and whose words were spreading like gangrene (2 Tim. 2:16-18). And John, in 1 Jn. 2:22, talks about those who were denying that Jesus was “the Christ” and calls them  “liars” and “antichrists.” The Apostles used strong words to express the danger of heresy and false teachers.

It now becomes clear as to why Peter wants believers to take holiness seriously and to treasure God’s truth about Jesus. The false teachers in Peter’s day, as well as the false teachers in our time, teach lies that lead people away from faith and godliness. They were and are dangerous because they steer people away from true doctrine and therefore away from God.

But before we start looking for heretics and antichrists let’s be careful. As long as the church has existed there have not only been false teachers, but also disagreements among Christians. Disagreement over doctrine is not necessarily a matter of heresy. Heresy is not about differing beliefs regarding baptism, speaking in tongues, worship styles, or even end-times views.

According to scripture a false teacher, or heretic, is someone who denies the person and work of Jesus (1 Jn.2:22). False teachers deny the trinity, the deity of Jesus (or his humanity), the return of Christ, the sufficiency of scripture and/or that salvation comes through Christ alone.

These are dangerous teachings that can lead to godless living and a God-less life! Peter does not hold back when he tells us about some of the characteristics of these false teachers. They were covetous and greedy.  Like animals they relied on feelings and desires instead of wisdom, reason and insight (vs.12). They exploited others, indulged in sexual sins, rebelled against God, and were arrogant in their false teaching.

One of the ways their arrogance was seen was that they did not have a healthy respect/fear of angels (like Mary and others had) (vs10). They were flippant with God’s word. What you believe will determine how you act and what you say, and this was seen in the false teachers that Peter was speaking out against.

Love God Greatly-Peter

Peter’s description in 2 Peter 2:10-16 is very graphic because he wants us to understand the seriousness and dangers of false teachers. But here is the thing, it is easy to blow off these verses and believe that we would never deny Christ or his work. But people don’t just fall into false doctrine. Heresy isn’t embraced suddenly, without warning. It is most often a slow and steady drift that leads away from the truth.

There are many reasons people drift from the truth and wind up believing a lie. One of them is boredom. It is safe to say that many, if not all of us, have experienced boredom in our spiritual walk. We become bored with church, with the preaching, with worship and with the word itself. This is when we begin looking for something exciting and new, something that will stir our hearts and make us feel enthusiastic and passionate. Sometimes this boredom causes us to try and have a faith that mixes well with the world. This can be dangerous. This is where compromise sneaks in and lies begins to sound good and even right.

Our protection against false teaching, and even the danger of boredom is found in the Bible.

The Bible is a living book (Heb 4:12) and sharper than a surgeons scalpel. Not only can it cut into your soul and give you life, it can revive our hearts and give us a renewed passion and love for God and his word. The Bible is filled with Christ’s white hot love for his people and only this will take away the coldness that begins envelop our hearts.

Are you bored? Do you feel listless in your faith? If you find yourself tired of the Scripture I assure you Scripture is not the problem. The heart is the problem. The only remedy is to dig even deeper into the scriptures and to pray constantly for God to keep you faithful and focused on him.

We should ask that he would protect us from seeking excitement in man-made and man-centered, emotionally driven teachings that could lead us away from the truth. Truth that brings freedom, joy and life.

Looking To Jesus,

jen-sig

Protecting the Truth

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The Apostle Peter had a heart for the church, especially for those suffering. You can see this in his first letter. His concern for the church led him to shift gears a bit in 2 Peter to focus on false teachers and dangerous theology.

Peter isn’t some angry heresy hunter, but a lover of God and his truth. This led him to not only call out false teachers, but to equip the church to defend itself against these false teachers and their false beliefs through knowledge of true doctrine. As a matter of fact, he brings up “knowledge” 16 times in this short letter.

The passage we are focusing on today reflects Peter’s concern, but it is also a famously difficult passage in the Bible. Biblical scholars have wrestled with the meaning of this passage for centuries, and I’m not able to get into all of that here. Instead, I would like to focus on the phrase, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.”

Truth is precious. It must be protected because only the truth reveals to us what is real; who we are, who God is, and it is the truth that saves us. The truth frees us, brings life to us, and and changes our hearts. Truth is precious because Jesus himself is Truth (1 Peter 2:7) . So when it comes to what is true we must submit ourselves to what God has revealed. Truth cannot be invented by us, nor can we determine what is true based on how we feel.

LoveGodGreatly- Peter

When Peter says, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation,” he means that the truth of Scripture is not found in the subjective meaning we attach to it. We should not make up or invent new meanings of Scripture, and we shouldn’t let our emotions dictate the meaning of any passage in the Bible. Instead we must let Scripture itself speak, and our job is to rightly understand it as it was intended to be received.

Praise God, we have been given a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who illuminates, or sheds light, on God’s truth for us. Through prayer, study, and godly counsel, God helps us understand his truth and apply it to our lives.

We must let the word of God be our only authority in faith and practice. This is what the Reformers called “sola scriptura” (scripture alone).

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other forms of authority in the church. We have church elders and wise men who have written very helpful books, but the Bible is the only infallible authority in the church.

We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments alone… Other writings of ancient or contemporary teachers, whatever their names may be, shall not be regarded as equal to Holy Scripture, but all of them together shall be subjected to it…
– Jacob Andreae (1570)

This relates to how we view preaching and teaching today. We need to make sure that we measure everything by God’s revealed Word.

In our humanity it is easy to sometimes get bored with the stories and truths that we read in the Bible. Sometimes we crave something new and exciting for our spiritual walk. Other times we prefer easy, feel good words to hard truths.  But we must be very leery of any teacher who says they have “new truth.” We serve an ancient God (Daniel 7:13; Ps. 90:2) who has given us ancient truth (1Peter 1:25).

We must trust that not only is God good but so are his words, even when they are hard and make us feel uncomfortable.

“Would you prefer a comfortable lie or an uncomfortable truth?”
– Joe Thorn

Let’s be careful to listen to those who preach and teach the pure word of God, and not their own ideas or issues.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

Grace In Suffering

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And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:10-11

We have come to the end of Peter’s first letter, and despite the heavy subject of suffering he leaves us with a beautiful word of encouragement.

 He began his book by addressing those who are suffering and reminded them of the mercy and grace found in their Savior. He ends his letter in much the same way.

I love that Peter does not try to sugar coat life. He says, “After you have suffered a little while.” Yes, life will be hard; there will be trials and sufferings of various degrees in our lives. We can be sure of it.

But Peter does not stop on a downer; he continues with “the God of all grace.” Such simple words, and yet so powerful, especially to those who are worn out and sad. God is not simply a gracious God who shows us kindness and love. He owns ALL grace. Every form that grace can take comes from God himself and he pours it out on his people.

Here are a few ways the grace of God touches those who are suffering.

who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Called

That is what you are! God has called you out of darkness and into his light, his kingdom, his family, and eventually into his presence. This is guaranteed to us. So no matter what this life is like we can be confident of our future, and our future is filled with all kinds of beauty.

Restored

There are an endless amount of peaceful days ahead of us, and we can look forward to those days because we have been restored or made perfect in Christ. His sacrifice is our life. It may not feel like we will ever see peaceful days, but one day God will restore everything to the way it is supposed to be. This includes us, as well. He will restore in us the image of Christ completely. This process of restoration has already begun, but it takes time. One of the tools God uses is his Word, so treasure it.

Confirm and Strengthened

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Is. 41:10

Trials and suffering wear you out. Even those smaller trials like sleepless night with a baby, or a stressful week, can leave you feeling worn out and, in my case, weepy. But God promises that he will be our strength. Don’t try to push through on your own. It won’t work. We will only succeed if we acknowledge our weakness and cling to Christ for his strength. He will gladly give us what we need.

Not only will God give us the strength we need to make it through a trial, but the word “confirm” gives the idea that we, ourselves, will be made stronger so that we can endure future trials even better.

Established  

I like how the old English versions use the word “settle.” He will settle us. God will place us on ground that cannot crumble or come crashing down because this foundation is Jesus Christ. Those who are in Christ cannot come to any real harm.  The Psalmist points out, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6)

Trials may take their toll on our bodies and emotions – they may result in broken friendships, difficult days, and many tears – but they cannot take away our faith. As a matter of fact, trials and suffering have the power to strengthen our faith and our love for God if we cling to him.

Even in our suffering there is grace, as God uses our trials for good in the lives of his children (Ro. 8:28). This includes trials and suffering brought about by our own foolishness, as well as the hurt inflicted on us by others.

Remember this: you NEVER suffer without God’s gentle hand of grace upon you.

Love God Greatly

 

 

Looking To Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

You Have A Gift

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Growing up I never felt like I had any special talents. There was nothing that I excelled at. I wasn’t into sports, academically I was average, at home I was a bit messy. I’m not crafty or super outgoing.  For years I had no idea what “spiritual gift” God had given me.

But each of us is born with a special gift, something that we are passionate about, something we like doing and are good at. These talents or gifts don’t just happen by accident; they are given to us by God. Matthew Henry explains that some of us will receive “ordinary” gifts, while others of us will be given “extraordinary” gifts.

Now God doesn’t do things without a purpose. He doesn’t give us these gifts just for fun, though they do bring joy and fun into our lives. These gifts are to be used to help and bless those around us. In this way we bring glory to God.

The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister, or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God.

Matthew Henry

The difficulty we have is figuring out what gift or gifts God has given us.  Spiritual gift tests have been invented to help Christians figure this out. I took one years ago, and according to the results my spiritual gifts were discernment and pastoring. Ha!  While these tests can be helpful, they are not always accurate or necessary.
LoveGodGreatly

Here are a few ways to help you figure out what gifts God has blessed you with.

1. What are you passionate about?

What are those things that you really love doing? What gets you excited? What brings you joy when you are doing it? What comes natural to you?

2. What are you good at?

While figuring out what you are passionate about is a good start, it is not always accurate. You can be passionate about singing but not be able to carry a tune. So the next question to ask yourself is, “what am I good at?”

EVERYONE is good at something because God has given everyone a gift. This doesn’t mean that you are an expert. It  simply means that you do it well and that you see fruit.

3. Ask someone

Sometimes it is hard for us to see what we are good at. This is when we need to ask someone. Ask your spouse, your friends, or family member. What talents or gifts do they see in your life?

4. Let your church help you by plugging in

One of the best ways to find your gift is by practicing. If you like cooking, baking and caring for people, then plug into a hospitality ministry. If you like babies and children, then plug into the children’s ministry. If you like to teach, then maybe you can work with older kids, youth, or even lead a women’s Bible study. Are you musical? Then join the worship team. If you like to organize and lead, then find out where in your church you could put those gifts to use.

If you are still not sure then see where your church needs help and just plug in. You may be surprised at how much you like serving in an area that you never really thought much about before.

Remember that the gifts we have been given were not given so that we would keep them to ourselves or only use them within the confines of our own four walls. God gave us gifts, talents, and interests to use to help and love others and bring glory to His name.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

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