incentive to grow in God’s grace

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:17-18

2 Peter 1 is one of my many favorite sections of Scripture. The rest of the book (it’s a short one; click the above link to get it all) is a bit challenging for me, not sections of Scripture I go to much on my own, except to read through with the rest. But probably because of that, parts I need to heed all the more.

The ending quoted above gives away the plot of the book, which you might not at all guess by the first chapter alone. Again, that first chapter is beautiful on its own, and stands well alone. But it is not appreciated well for what it was meant to be and do when separated from the rest. It’s like listening to just parts or highlights of a symphony or other musical piece. Without listening to the whole, you won’t as well appreciate the parts.

The sad fact of the matter is that there are charlatans out there ripping people off. That’s the obvious stuff, though not so to those who are not well versed and desperate. And then there’s the much more subtle, whose own faith is ship wrecked (to borrow from Paul), who are naturally corrupt, and corrupt others, even in the name of religion, yes, sadly, in the name of Christ. They are out there. I wish I could avoid all of this. But I live in the real world. And to think that I’m not above being influenced by such, even if it’s subtlety, is to deny the plain words of Scripture here.

Regardless of what else, we must press on, seeking to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ just as the first chapter tells us. (I know, the chapter and verse divisions are something we’ve added, a part of our tradition, but while having their drawbacks, do help us know what part of the Scripture we’re referring to.) We’re to be aware of the danger unsound teaching and teachers bring. First of all, of course, to be able to sort out the true from the false, the good from the bad. And the better and best from those who maybe have been influenced by what’s not good. A big task, and we need the church at its truest to help us in this.

Instead of succumbing and ultimately falling, we’re to keep growing. There’s no middle ground. We either are growing, or drifting as in falling back. Our needed ongoing growth in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

false prophets

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day,‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus’ words should first of all, as Scot McKnight points out on his recent, excellent commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, probe our own lives. We need to ask ourselves before God the hard questions about ourselves and our life. Although we will surely fall short, is our life about loving God and others, about doing to others as we would have them do to us? Or is it about the great things we do, people simply nice in terms of numbers and our agenda or program?

False prophets can look good on the outside, but probably what Jesus is getting at is to check the fruit of their lives. And always in terms of the first and greatest commandment along with the second like it.

It is striking and noteworthy that Jesus’ words allow for people doing signs and wonders and yet never knowing the Lord whose name they invoked. Scary too, I might add. Key in the issue, as Scot McKnight points out is whether or not we do God’s will. And especially in terms of love for God and for others, including our enemies and with a special emphasis on helping the poor, those in need.

In all of this we have to be extra careful. Some yellow lights might go on in our minds when we see the life of another. But are we looking at our own lives? The passage should shine a light toward us, not just toward another. Jesus’ words are given to us so that we might have discernment in this area.

A helpful article related to this happens to come from the seasoned wisdom of Chuck Swindoll, the article entitled, “5 Signs of a Mean-Spirited Leader.” Probing questions for us all.