Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Judgment and Mercy – Part #2
2 Peter 2:10b-22; Jude 1:6
Turn to 2 Peter 2. What can you and I be certain about in life? Have you ever looked forward to something and it turned out disappointing? Or not even disappointing, but it just wasn’t everything that you were expecting. I have quoted Hadden Robinson before, a great old preacher. He said, “Don’t expect too much from this life.” That’s not bad advice, for if we don’t get too excited about something, it might actually turn out better than we expected. Sometimes it depends on our personalities. For positive thinkers like myself it can be hard “to not expect too much.” And I think there are a few reasons for that. That earthly life can only deliver so much, and life is also full of uncertainties. And usually when we speak about uncertainties, we are assuming that something turned out “worse” than expected. I mean, not too many start a new job and say, this is going to be the worst job ever, and it turns out great. No one stands at the marriage altar thinking that this is the worst decision I have ever made. And then, wow marriage is the best! No, usually our expectations are up here, and the reality is down here, or somewhere in the middle. Why? Because life is uncertain.
Now, we need to understand that this is from a human standpoint. For with God there is no uncertainty. For God knows exactly what is going to happen with everything all the time. We ended off last Sunday’s message with the truth that God knows those who are His, and there is security in that, isn’t there? And we discussed the judgment on the fallen angels, the judgment on the world at the time of the flood, and the judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And yet at the same time, God (vs 5) preserved Noah and his family, (vs 7) God rescued righteous Lot and his family, and God (vs 7) God rescues the godly. Certainly, God deals differently with His own than He does with the ungodly.
So, we could say that life is full of uncertainties, yet we could actually say that for those who belong to God, life in many ways is full of certainty, for those who know Christ. And the Bible could not be clearer of the certainty of those who claim Christ, who serve Christ, who follow Christ as their Lord and Saviour, though we do not know all the specifics about life or eternity. The certainty is that God knows those who are His and has promised to care for us and save us to the end. And I am not sure we really require any more certainty than that. And the destiny of the ungodly, those who do not embrace Christ, those who have not received forgiveness, the certainty is hell and eternal punishment. The Bible does not speak of any middle ground, there is no purgatory, and there is no place of non-existence, as our souls are eternal, either eternal life in heaven, or eternal damnation in hell, this is certain.
Jesus told a parable in Luke 12 about the foolishness of earthly wealth, and the one who placed his trust in material things. And then Christ said, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you.” True, we do not know the timing of things. We certainty do not know the outcomes of our families, or things such as the government, the economy. And likely one of the greatest struggles in our culture, whether that is in church life or not, is the drastic changes that are taking place in our thinking. And how we view things far more liberally than we once did as a culture, even if the culture is not opposed to the changes, truth is, change causes uncertainty.
And I would suggest that even the culture struggles with the changes as many have grown up with more secure childhoods. Something that we can understand and empathize with them. And normally some of the changes are slow, but they are not anymore. And we just sort of assume that life will be much different for our children and their children than it was for us. So let’s pray. It would seem Lord that we need You in such a great way. That our society needs Christ. And Lord, as we consider this passage this morning, as You make clear for us the things that are certain in an uncertain world. Lord, would we be faithful, would we stand, would this church stand as a beacon of light in a darkening world. Keep us faithful, strong, united servants of Christ, amen.
Last week we saw the judgment awaiting false teachers. Two weeks ago, we saw that false teachers are those who may even believe as we believe, yet they “deny the Master.” In other words, they reject the Lordship of Christ, they do not serve Christ as Lord. This morning we are going to see some of the characteristics of these false teachers. Some in society, some in government, some as preachers on TV, on the internet, and some within the church. Remember last week we saw how the fallen angels had gone outside of the domain the Lord had set for them, they went past the boundaries. So too, I would describe these teachers as Jude 1:6 says, to be “outside” of their proper domain, as we will see when we go through this passage that they will live, they will act, and they will think of themselves “above” what God has designed for them.
We have seen this in Christian schools and Christian universities where the leadership has given a code of conduct for students. Where students are challenged to live good godly lives with great carefulness of their lifestyle. While at the same time, the school leadership has been caught in actions far outside of those guidelines, and some of it has been disheartening and sickening. Or ministries where a pastor will set a high bar for his congregation, only to find that he himself has committed great acts of sin often in regard to money or women, or power. Men and women who are associated with the church but have no intention of living a sincere godly lifestyle. And this is troubling for us as well, because we may expect it from the culture, but within our own circles the change is troubling for us. The uncertainty of “Christianity” may even make us cynical, to the point we start to think, who’s next?
It says here, end of verse 10, “they do not tremble when they blaspheme glorious ones.” Do you get the picture here? Peter has already indicated in verse 3 that they “deny the Master.” So, it is not surprising here that they have no problem of elevating themselves to speak out against these “glorious ones.” Likely a reference here to fallen angels. Because look what Peter goes on to say:
“whereas angels who are greater in strength and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.”
2 Pet 2:11 (LSB)
Even the elect sinless angels do not come against them. This is a unique truth into how we are to conduct ourselves. That even those who are profusely evil, as these fallen angels, we are not the ones who bring down the judgment on them, for this is God’s realm. I am sure we have all seen TV evangelists who have dared to speak out against demonic powers as if they were above them. Yet we read here of the position which even the archangel had:
“But Michael the archangel, when he, disputing with the devil, was arguing about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
Jude 9 (LSB)
This teaches us that even when we know we are right, we still have a proper attitude and place, as we have been created a little lower than the angels. For to think that even Michael, a created perfect, sinless being; would not confront Satan. And the elect angels, those perfect angels from creation will not confront the fallen angels, much less you and I. And notice as well:
“But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, blaspheming where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.”
- Pet 2:12 (LSB)
Where they have “no knowledge.” Scriptural knowledge, yes. Spiritual knowledge and discernment, no. Many people know what is right, many people know what is wrong. Almost anyone in the church “knows” what God desires for them. So scriptural knowledge, yes. But the self-will to go against that. A self-will that says “no” to God and “yes” to self. In other words, spiritual knowledge and discernment, “no.” This is the person that is quick to say what others should do. What my spouse should do. What my kids should do. What the government should do. What the church needs to do. Yet he does not apply the same standards to his own life. In fact, we get from this passage that they have elevated themselves above their own rules. And Peter actually says here in verse 12 that these teachers will be destroyed at the same time that the Lord is destroying Satan’s demon armies.
“suffering unrighteousness as the wages of their unrighteousness, considering it a pleasure to revel in the daytime—they are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and unceasing sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed—they are accursed children.”
- Pet 2:13-14 (LSB)
In other words, they will reap what they have sown. And they actually revel in the daytime, What was at one time sinful, was still committed in our society. But it was done in secret, or it was done at night. But not so anymore, it has been brought out into the light. Sins are no longer the result of temptation, they are now planned for, and sins are committed without shame. Now students plan to get drunk. Athletes plan to have “girlfriends” in every city. Songs can say pretty much anything they want to. Temptation is not really necessary, as people plan to sin. And what was once done in secret is now openly laughed about. What entertainment that was once not even proper for the culture is now enjoyed by the non-Christian and Christian alike.
And this is the attitude of these false teachers, that they have “freed” themselves from these proper boundaries. Verses like everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial is now below them. Being a stumbling block does not concern them. They may give wise advice to someone else, but they are above the same advice in their own lives. Interesting that Peter mentions (vs 14) that they have a heart trained in greed, long before TV evangelists. Ahis is so relevant today. These church leaders, who are full of greed. What do they do to get people to support them? Verse 14, they entice unstable souls.
“Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but he received a rebuke for his own lawlessness, for a mute donkey, speaking out with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.”
2 Pet 2:14-15 (LSB)
Peter makes a list here in their actions: they have forsaken the right way in which God has called them to live, and they have gone astray from the message of the Bible. In other words, it may have been God’s Word that attracted them at one time. It may have been a church family that welcomed into their flock of believers. But they have gone astray from that. And interesting that Peter picks up on the story of Balaam, who was coaxed to curse Israel, though he ended up blessing them. And though Balaam claimed to be innocent, God knew his heart. Someone has said that he is the classic “prophet-for-hire.” And if the Lord had not intervened in the story, Balaam would have cursed Israel for material gain. Later in the book of Numbers we see Balaam’s true heart, as he tries to entice Israel to marry pagan women. Yet he is rebuked by who? Moses? Aaron? Some religious leaders? No, (vs 16) by a mute donkey, whom the Lord spoke through to restrain the “madness of the prophet.” I have to smile here, as the Lord allows a donkey, in this case, to go outside of his proper domain and rebuke Balaam.
So, when Peter warns of these false teachers within the church, he speaks of those who go outside of their proper domain, who practice defiance, power, sin, and greed, with no real spiritual love and care for the people of God. And this presents here a need for us to carefully consider church life and its ministry, to carefully consider its leadership. You know, these days churches can even spend a lot of energy worrying about what we are losing in society, and it is true and it is sad. But I would suggest there is a hidden blessing in this, for it ought to give a greater thankfulness for what we have, When we as a church family stand before the Lord someday. I am not sure we will be asked how the culture did. No, we will be asked what we did with what the Lord gave to us, and how much we praised God for the treasure of what He gave to us, a church family, a church body. Now for the rest of our passage this morning, Peter is going to tell us the fruit of the ministry that was led by these ungodly men. In other words, just how unfruitful this ministry was.
“These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been kept. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity, they entice by sensual lusts of the flesh, those who barely escape from the ones who conducted themselves in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
2 Pet 2:17-19 (LSB)
These ministries seemed to offer a lot, but spiritually they are but “mists driven by a storm.” In other words, they may appear attractive, but they offer no true depth. Therefore number one when considering a church, it needs to be:
- A Place of Sincerity and Spiritual Depth (vs 17)
This is a grave warning here that we do not just “do church.” That getting up Sunday morning is not just a habit, that our worship is not just routine. But that church life is not optional, as it is such a vital centre of our lives. And Dads, I would suggest that this lands on you. To make sure that you and your family attend a church where there is a spiritual depth in the ministry and the leadership of the church. And that the ministry for you is such a vital part of your life. And notice Peter also says here (vs 18) they speak arrogant words, they entice. Therefore number two when considering a church, it needs to be:
- A Place where God’s Word is Spoken and Embraced (vs 18)
The older I get the more passionate I get about truth. And the more I study the Scriptures, the more amazed I am at the unified focus of the Bible. Folks, this is unexplainable, outside of the work of the Holy Spirit. For a book written over centuries that has such a focused theme of God’s plan, His redemption for mankind is truly amazing. That even Peter and Jude pick up on what Moses wrote 1500 years prior. And I am sure there are a lot of speakers who are more entertaining than I am. And I know there are some great men we can listen to on the internet. But they cannot replace the necessity to have elders who love you, care for you, and love the Lord, who are part of your lives, and leadership that you are accountable to is so essential. And we as elders, are determined that God’s Word will be preached and taught here, in season, out of season. In other words, when the message is welcomed and when it is unwelcomed. Someone said to me the other day, sometimes we get mad at the preacher, but assured me that is a good thing. A place where God’s Word will be spoken and embraced here by leadership. When considering a church, number three, it needs to be:
- A Place where Sin is Being Put to Death (vs 17, 19)
Notice Peter’s words (vs 17) “springs without water,” and (vs 19) “promising freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption.” There is a high responsibility for the church leader. Such a high responsibility to live in the way in which we teach. We have been studying on Sunday evenings of the “already-but-not-yet.” That yes, the Christian has been redeemed and “perfected” in Christ. Yet that final glorification does not come until eternity. Therefore, the Christian still lives with a sin nature. Yet the Bible gives warning after warning to those who would call themselves Christians, who are not constantly “putting to death” the old sinful life. We already know from our study during these past three weeks of the anger of the Lord towards those who claim to know Christ, yet are unwilling to be a slave of the Master. Therefore, a church needs to be a place where sin is being continually put to death. Peter is going to finish off this section with one last warning to these false teachers.
“For if they are overcome, having both escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and having again been entangled in them, then the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. The message of the true proverb has happened to them, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’”
2 Pet 2:20-22 (LSB)
This is so similar to Hebrews 6, where the writer there warns of those who are part of a congregation, enjoyed the blessings of the congregation, yet did not embrace Christ. Peter actually says that it would have been better if you had never known the way of righteousness or the gospel message. So, let me leave you with three warnings to us that we learn from these words to the false teachers. Warning number one:
- When we live outside of God’s boundaries (Jude 1:6).
Jude 1:6, “they had left their proper domain.” We might think that there are many decisions in life, that at times we do not know which way to turn. But that is likely overstated. Because for the most part, we usually know in which direction God is leading us. As it is usually evident what is right and what is wrong. The challenge for us is just to be obedient. Our greatest struggles are not because we do not know what God desires for us, our greatest struggles are that we knowingly at times live outside of what is best and right. Yes, there is a great danger in going beyond the boundaries that the Lord has set for us. We need to fear that, going outside of those boundaries. Warning number two:
- When we do not turn from our former lifestyle (Eph 2:2).
Paul taught the Ephesians (2:2) that when they were saved, he spoke of their old lifestyle as a “former” lifestyle. For the assumption in Paul’s gospel, is that when someone truly comes to Christ, they will leave their old lifestyle. And these false teachers “returned to their own vomit.” We cannot do that. For that is not a true indication of salvation when we live that way. That is not a real transformation.
Finally, in 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul writes:
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking; rather in evil be infants.”
- Cor 14:20a (LSB)
The Bible is clear that children are sinners, as those who have come from Adam are born sinners. As those who had sinful fathers are born sinners. Does anyone have a perfect Dad? Yet there is a truth that children have not grown in their sin as adults have. So, there is a relative innocence about children, though they are sinners. So, what Paul is teaching here is that in regard to sin, be like children. A time in your life when to go beyond in a certain area of sin was fearful. So often as young people when we commit our lives to the Lord. We often will commit to something like, “I will never do that.” Yet as we grow older our conscience is as the Bible says is “seared.” These false teachers had apparently committed their lives to Christ, but it was not a true commitment, as Peter says they proved their true selves and “turned away from the holy commandment.” Warning number three:
- When we commit a sin, that at one time we said, “I will not do that” (1 Cor 14:20).
We want to be careful here, as many of us have been given some great boundaries over the years, or have made some great commitments in our lives. And it may be true that a commitment we made was not a wise commitment. But in areas of sin, where we knew it was unwise to go in this direction, yet over time, we have crossed that line. We might need to come before the Lord and say, Lord forgive me, as I need to get my life back on track with serving Christ as my Master and Lord.
At our new house, we do not have a fenced-in backyard, but a lot of space. And when we let Ted out, she is pretty good at staying within the yard. And you know we live on a busy street. Yet she is good, as she knows the boundaries. And sometimes she will get to the edge of our yard and look back at us, and I will say, “Hey, get back here!” Fortunately, she has never gone out the front where the cars are. She must have determined that she would never do that! Maybe she has become a Christian since moving to Arkona! Now you and I can go home and not take seriously what God has said. And we might continue to roam outside the markers. But God’s Word is screaming at us this AM saying, don’t! Because there is great danger for those who go beyond the boundaries God has set. In fact, the warning to these false teachers was that their refusal to change actually showed they were not true believers.
Let’s pray. Lord, would You help us to heed Your warnings? Give us such a commitment to Christ, that we would desire to serve You will a great passion. And keep us from sin, so that we may thrive as Your children in the parameters, in the playground You have set for us. And all God’s people said, amen.