Don’t Forget!

I’ve come to the last chapter of 2 Peter in my lectio divina study. What stands out for me in this reading is near the beginning and it’s very simple:

“... you should remember…” 2 Peter 3:2

Peter is telling his readers to remember the predictions of the prophets of the Old Testament, as well as the commandments of Jesus they have learned through His apostles. We should remember those things as well, and continuing to read and study the Scriptures will help us to do that. As we grow older, we each have individual memories to cherish as well– memories of the different churches we have attended, each one with a special history and beauty; memories of Sunday School lessons and teachers; pastors who have encouraged us; brothers and sisters in the faith who have helped us bear our burdens and mature as believers. These people and places make up our personal “cloud of witnesses.” When I remember them, I’m comforted and consoled. Looking back at my own life, as well as the Scriptures, I can clearly see how God has been at work, and is still at work. I’m part of His story and so are you. He’s not done yet!

For more about remembering see:

Remembering What We Are

Remember the Gospel

Remembering the Important Things

2 Peter Chapter 2 — What Stands Out?

Chapter 2 of Second Peter is all about false teachers and prophets that will lead us away from Christ. Here’s what really stood out for me:

“They have hearts trained in greed.” 2 Peter:2:14

Unfortunately, I think we Americans have hearts trained in greed. We’re taught from the time we are young to strive to succeed in ways that allow us to have more We admire people who make lots of money and can afford to buy whatever they desire. Our entire economy depends upon us continuing to pile up good and services we don’t really need, while in other places people are starving. Worse yet, the things we want made available to us cheaply, are often supplied through the labor of human beings who are enslaved or exploited. We don’t really care, because we don’t see it. It doesn’t happen in our country.

This mindset extends to the church as well. We like bigger congregations that can offer more programs. We choose a place of worship for the beauty of the building, the quality of the music and the public speaking ability of the pastor. We want a church that will “meet our needs” instead of a community where we are needed.

This has been a bit of a rant and I wish I could end with a workable solution. I can’t. I’m greedy and so are you. We’re trained to be greedy, and we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t change the society in which we live. We can try to be moderate and generous and aware of our shortcomings, but it won’t ever be enough. We need the help and mercy of God. We need a savior.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘I tell all of you with certainty, it will be hard for a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God.’

‘When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished. “Who, then, can be saved?’ they asked.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘For humans this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.'” Matthew 19:23-38

For more about the problem of selfishness see:

The Great Pope, Self

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

Who Do You Serve?

Trust God’s Process

I’ve started reading the book of 2 Peter as part of my discipline of study. I’m doing this is a slow, meditative way, reading each chapter more than once and looking for what stands out, then pondering what it means to me.

Often a short sentence or even a phrase stands out, but this time it’s several verses:

“…. make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love.” 2 Peter 1:5-7

It tells me that my sanctification is a process, and it requires some effort on my part. I have no choice about my conversion — that’s a work of God. But I can and should “make every effort” to grow more like Jesus.

I’m not sure if the qualities listed are meant as a progression, but if they are, it doesn’t surprise me that the end result is love. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the law can be distilled down into the statement that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves? This won’t happen all at once; we first have to develop knowledge and understanding, then self-control and determination, and finally we will arrive at the place where we truly feel brotherly affection and love for others.

Like me, you may not be there yet, but we can walk the road. Keep going. Trust the process.

For more about trust see these posts:

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

Trusting Your Leader

Trust the Process

Uncertain Slavery

I just finished reading a book called Bullwhip Days.  It is a collection of the memories of former slaves, written as part of the Federal Writers Project in the 1930’s.  The people who were interviewed, in their own homes, were all quite elderly by this point.  The book records not only the events, but the emotions that arose from the condition of being owned, as a piece of property.

Surprisingly, some of the former slaves not only had good masters, they loved them.  They had a relationship that made them feel like part of the family, and they were well treated.  Some said they were happier and better cared for as slaves than they were after being freed.  This is not an attempt to justify slavery as an institution, because the big problem was this:  you could not be certain of remaining with your good master.  He might die.  He might accumulate so much debt that he lost his property (including the slaves) to bankruptcy.  He might become incapacitated and be replaced by an overseer or relative who was not so kind.  At best, remaining in a good situation was no sure thing.

The Bible tells us that, unfortunately all of us are slaves to something.

“For speaking loud boasts of folly, they (the unrighteous) entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”  2 Peter 2:18-19

We can become slaves to addictions, to our social position, our jobs, our possessions, or even good things like our spouse or family.  These are not kind masters because we can never have enough, or do enough to be satisfied.  In addition, all of them are temporary and changeable. We may be contented for a time, but it will not last.

There is only one master who is kind, loving and permanent and that is God.

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin, which leads to death, or of obedience that leads to righteousness? ”  Romans 6:16

Your relationship with God will not change.  He has your best interests at heart.  In the end, only He can satisfy.  Slavery is certain.  Just make sure you’re serving the right master.

For more on this topic:

Whose Slave Are You?