My morning meditations have been in Peter’s second letter. He addressed Christians who were in difficult times, under pressure from both from outside and inside the church! Persecution was intense. When Jesus’ followers grew in number their influence could not be ignored across Asia Minor. Because they refused to offer the obligatory gifts to Caesar as a god, they were suspected of disloyalty to the Roman empire. This brought on the persecution of authorities and rejection of neighbors and friends who feared being associated with rebels.
There were factions inside the church, too. People from every way of life came together in Christ but it was not all hymn-singing and happy times. Finding community was difficult and they fought among themselves. They were beset by teachers who brought false doctrines, by those who were just in it for themselves. Peter, knowing that some were discouraged, urges them not to walk away or to compromise their commitment.
He writes “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Peter 2:20-23 NIV) Then he points out the reward. “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:11-14, NIV)
2000 years later, the circumstances are different but the temptations remain. Christians still deal with pressures from inside and outside of the faith. We can begin to wonder if we are being foolish in our giving, serving, loving, and commitment. The way of compromised faith is offered by self-interested teachers who are willing to comfort those who are looking for an easy ‘discipleship.’ (a contradiction in terms, by the way) If we look around we will be disappointed to find that there are many who claim to be Christ’s but live filled with Self. And, there is the ever-present subtle work of the Deceiver to draw our focus away from Christ Jesus and onto to our bruised feelings or missed expectations. Peter warns that if we let ourselves get tangled up in all of that, we can end up worse than we were before coming to Jesus!
A bitter, back-slidden Christian can develop a heart that is hardened. I have known that temptation, too! Cynicism blinds a person to every expression of love or makes that love feel manipulative. The Spirit’s invitation to know His tender mercies is lost to anger. Worshipfulness can be replaced by a dutiful form of religiosity. But, that can be changed! To avoid the deception, we pray to keep eternity in view. We can let go of our woundedness, see beyond our disappointment, and/or put temptation for pleasure to death when the bright light of God’s promise is our beacon. It that difficult?
Peter knows it is. “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him,” he tells us. I cannot think of anything of great value that is gained without consistent effort and clear vision. Knowing Jesus in the rich way that the Word promises demands hard choices, death to Self, and a willingness to defer rewards for an eternity that is, as yet, unseen.
Let’s not get tripped up in our tests and trials.
Before you fall down, kneel down and look up.
Before you give up in despair, surrender to the One who gives hope.
Here is a word from the Word. May the inspired revelation of Peter renew our hope and deepen our commitment. “You need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings … Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.” (2 Peter 3:3,8-9, The Message)
Abba, help me to see the rich reward You have in reserve.
Thank You for the grace of Christ. Help me to lean hard on Him
when the trials of life make temptations glitter attractively.
Strengthen faith, silence the voice of the deceiver.
May my hope be set in Christ alone,
My love be strong enough to withstand every hardship,
My faith finding renewal day by day.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen