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- 2 Peter 1:12 - 15
Are you prone to forgetfulness? Do you often forget where you put your wallet, your phone, your keys or that you needed to buy coffee yesterday? With so many things rushing at us during the day demanding or requiring our attention, it is difficult to remember everything. The same can be said of our spiritual memory. Sometimes, perhaps often times, we forget who we are and what we are to be doing in the world. We lose direction.
This is why we need constant interaction with the Holy Scriptures, the Word and Words of God. The Words of Christ define us and direct us, identify who we are and lay out a good path for our lives. Here in these 4 verses, Peter wants to remind us of these things because we often forget.
Last week, we laid out the qualities that are embedded in every Christian that are now to be activated and practiced. The list included faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, Godliness, brotherly affection and love. These are qualities that are not inherent in us but are given to us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The only thing to do now is to increase in these qualities.
Remembering the qualities
However, we all have short term memories when it comes to identity issues so Peter is going out of his way to remind us of our true, real, God-given identity that leads to God-enabled activity. He wants to lay a good foundation here because the church is dealing with allot of false identities, poor teaching, poor influencers and poor influences. So Peter the pastor will become Peter the reminder. This is who you are: Know it. Be it. Live it. Do it. (which might make a nice little bumper sticker someday).
A polite reminder
“Therefore,” Peter says in verse 12, “I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” This is such a polite, gentle, respectful and earnest way of saying the same thing he had already said. This is kind of like mom or dad saying to their child, “I know you know that you need to brush your teeth but I’m gonna gently, respectfully ask you to do it anyway, even though you are very aware of your need to do it already.” That may come across better than a blunt, “Brush your teeth!”
So Peter is using more words to say the same thing he has already said because of his high respect for believers in these churches. He is exhorting not lecturing them, leading them to do something not telling them to do something.
The therefore points back to verses 3-11, the calling of God on the life of a Christian, His power in us, along with all the qualities in us. If the gospel message is true, it is very much worth our time to think about it again and again and again. Peter intends always to remind them and the way he would do that is through writing this letter.
Lifting the chin
And look again at the way he speaks about these believers. You know these qualities and you are established in the truth that you have. He is lifting the chins of his audience. He is fortifying their faith in Christ. He is affirming God’s work in their lives. Because there are influencers in the church that will seek to muddy the waters, stir confusion, cause the lamp shining in a dark place to go a bit dim. He is saying, this is who you are. Stay strong in it.
This gospel reminder is not uncommon in the New Testament. Paul tells Jude in Jude 3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And He tells Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel…” When Paul is about to move on from the church in Ephesus he says, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.”
Forgetting Jesus’ presence
It is not that Christians often forget the facts about Jesus. However we often fail to remember what Jesus’ presence in our lives means for us now. Jesus’ presence with us and in us means power, wisdom, righteousness, hope, joy, peace with God and each other, and many other things. There will be many things coming that will threaten to push those realities out of our minds. That is why we need constant reminders of gospel truths.
Do you love me?
And this what Peter needed to. Jesus asked Peter in John 21 if Peter loved Him. And Peter said, yes. But then Jesus asked him 2 more times. Why was that? I don’t think it was because Peter didn’t mean it the first time. It was because Peter was the kind of person whose ambition sometimes was bigger than His abilities. He was quick to say things like, “yes, I will die with you Jesus, even if all the other ones fall away. I won’t.” It is not that Peter was dis-ingenuous. He was probably quite sincere. However he was prone to big talk, small walk.
And Jesus knew this about Peter. So he asks Peter 3 times so that Peter would get the point: you are sometimes quick to overpromise and under-deliver. You will need reminders and you will need to remind yourself. I know you love me right now but will you love me 10 years from now when things get more difficult that you can ever imagine? In those moments, remind yourself that I love you and that you love me. And you will prove this love by feeding my sheep. And that is what Peter is doing here.
Stir by way of reminder
“I think it right,” Peter says, “as long as I am in this body (or tent), to stir you up by way of reminder.” This is a logical, thoughtful decision. Peter thinks it appropriate, a good use of his time and their time to stir them, to rouse them to remember the gospel. Notice how Peter phrases his existence, “as long as I am in this body or literally this dwelling or tent.” A tent is of course a temporary place to be. If you are a person who likes to camp in the woods, you probably don’t camp for more than a few days or a perhaps a week at most (or maybe for a few hours until it begins to rain).
Not a permanent dwelling
A tent is not usually a permanent dwelling. Peter is calling his body a non-permanent dwelling, a tent. Paul calls it the same thing in II Corinthians 5:1-2, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…..”
This is not minimizing the human body or dishonoring that which has been made in God’s image. This is rather thinking of it appropriately, as temporary, weak, that which will not last, a tent, not a home. If that is true, if our bodies are tents and if we are foreigners and exiles in the world, how should we live? What would be the best use of our time?
Doing and thriving
I think that the best use of our time would be to get as close as we can to doing and thriving in the purpose for which we have been made. If you are a husband or wife, do marriage well. Prioritize it. If you are mom or a dad, do parenting well. Prioritize it. If you are single or to be married, be ambitious in your service to the Lord and grow in your affections for Him. Prioritize it. If you are boss or an employee, be a good one. Prioritize it. The temporariness of the human body points to the temporariness of our tasks. While we have these temporary tents let’s do these temporary tasks well.
Life in the tent
Peter toward the end of his life has a pretty clear picture about why he is living in this tent. He wants the church to remember the gospel and live, think and act according to it. Do not get distracted. Do not get off course. Do not be lured by a life of seemingly endless options. Stay on course. Do the things that Jesus has called you to do and enjoy doing it.
This does not mean that everything we do will be fun, pleasing, and produce a lot of feel good moments. To do what Jesus calls us to do may be even a bit painful a times. But in that obedience, we will also experience His joy and a kind of fearlessness.
That is what Peter had. “I know that the putting off my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.” Notice the lack of fear, the lack of dread, the tranquility in these words. Peter knows that he will die soon and we know from John 21 that it will not be a natural death. It will be something else. In John 21, After Peter answered the Lord 3 times that he indeed loved Him, Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
The kind of death
So Peter knew that loving and following Jesus would lead to a kind of death that would glorify God and also be contrary to Peters’ own will. He will learn that God’s will for his life is so good and perfect that even when he doesn’t want to do something, he will do it anyway. In other words, he will so thoroughly find his identity as a follower of Jesus that not even a painful death will deter him from obedience to the King. Peter will feed the sheep to the bitter end. And that is what he is doing.
There should be no fear in the heart that is stayed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold Of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” The answer is no one.
Deep in the soul
The direction Jesus gave Peter to “feed my sheep,” got so deep into Peter’s soul that one of the last things he determined to do on the planet was to write one more letter to feed the sheep. Death didn’t scare him. Death spurred him to obedience. We may not get a word from Jesus that we are going to die, but we will die someday if the Christ doesn’t return first. Our future death should spur us to be increasingly obedient in life.
You don’t get the image of Peter waiting around to die. You get the image of Peter putting out every last bit of energy he’s got as on older man to obey that command of Jesus given to him decades earlier as a younger man.
I think the engine of Peter’s obedience was not the desire to be a hero, a famous person, an all Star Apostle. I think he really loved Jesus and was deeply impacted by Jesus’ love for Him. There will never be a more loving act ever done for someone that what Jesus did at the cross. That is love in its truest form. Nothing we can ever do will compare to it but we can do many things in response to that great love.
Making every effort
“I will make every effort,” Peter says, “so that after my departure (literally exodus), you may be able at any time to recall these things.” There is one thing that is undeniable about the Christian faith: God wants us to know Him and to know ourselves in light of Him. He inspired 66 amazing books so that we could recall amazing things whenever we want to. And God also put in the heart of Biblical authors a real desire that people would know Him.
Here Peter is at the end of his life and what does he have on his mind: the health of the church. He is making every effort, doing everything he possibly can to help the churches stay strong after he departs. This is a last wish upon his death, that the church would remember the truths of the gospel.
Jesus in the upper room instituted the Lord’s Supper as a constant reminder of what He did for us. “Do this in remembrance of me.” This not simply “in honor of me” as though Jesus is a dead Figure that we honor like a fallen hero. No, we remember Jesus as a living, once dead and now living again, ruling and reigning King. We remember what He did and what He is doing now and what He promises to do in the future. We remember that our sins are atoned for and we are forgiven and free as though we never sinned at all. To remember Jesus is to fill our hearts with gospel hope.
After we learn the gospel, we are to in some ways re-learn the gospel again and again, to be refreshed and renewed again and again, to revisit gospel truths that never change even though we are constantly changing. Perhaps we need to revisit these things because we are changing so quickly! Faith is a dynamic thing that needs to be refreshed, re-invigorated, renewed through reminders of gospel realities. That is what Jesus was getting at in the upper Room and that is what Peter is getting at here. Remember Jesus. Remember the gospel. Be renewed and strengthened by it.
Recalling this at any time
And that is what Peter says quite directly at the last part of verse 15. It is a purpose statement for why he is doing what he is doing. “I am doing all of this so that….. you may be able at any time to recall these things.” This of course actually happened not just for these churches getting the letter then but for us getting this letter now. At any time, we are able to recall the eternal truths written down in the Scriptures.
How do we do this?
So how do we do this? We have access to the revealed will of God, His character, His plans in the past and the future, His calling on our life, now how do we access these things? There are many ways to do this but I will go through a few. One is to simply read the Scriptures in what capacity you are able to. The Word is a lamp and a light. We need it for guidance. We don’t get the guidance without getting the Word in us. And the main way we get the Word in us is through reading it, even if it’s just a few verses a day. The Scriptures remind us of who God is, who we are and what we are are to do in the world. That is one way to recall these things.
And there is another way. The believers in Peter’s day and for many years after did not have access to the Bible personally. So they relied on the community of believers. And that leads to another way we can recall gospel truths: through fellowship within Christian Community, through letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. This can be fairly broad and fairly specific.
When I was about 20 years old, I hit a wall in my bible learning and I beat my head against that wall for awhile and then applied for Moody Bible and got accepted. There I was taught the Scriptures through connection to a broader Christian community than I ever had before. That was a broad form of Christian community, not necessarily a church or local congregation. Other broader forms of Christian community may be books, radio, para-church ministries, Bible studies and a whole lot of other things.
More specifically, we recall and learn gospel truths through connection to a local body of believers called the church, the gathered ones. Together we form a group of Christ-worshippers, saved, redeemed people who love Jesus and love each other. Being in the church is a way to recall, remember and learn biblical truths, which cannot be fully understood or realized on our own. It is difficult to love people if you are not connected to people. It is difficult to be eager to maintain unity in the bond of peace if a person is not joined to a people with whom to maintain unity.
Forming Gospel identity
So gospel identity is formed and shaped through interaction with people. We grow individually and we grow together. That has always been God’s plan for the church, that we would not just be persons but a people, not just priests but a priesthood, not just family members but a family. We follow Jesus together because Jesus calls each one of us individually to make up His body, the church, the very bride of Christ. We are reminded of the great truths of Christ through interacting with the Word and through fellowship with each other.
So let’s do those things well so that we may together declare the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light. Let’s pray.