Aloha Friday Message – March 30, 2012 – Sixth Friday in Lent

1213AFC033012 – Catholic Letter Series

Read it online here.

KJV 2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

NAB 2 Peter 1:2 may grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

NLT 2 Peter 1:2 May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better.

Last week we looked at First Peter. It was writer to encourage and strengthen the churches in the provinces of Asia who were experience persecutions. He reminded them that Christ was the living cornerstone, and – like him – they were to be living stones building up the house of God.

Today we will take a look at the second letter of Peter. The primary focus of this letter is against heresies, so let’s take a moment to define HERESY. Some synonyms are unorthodoxy, profanation, sacrilege and heterodoxy. I don’t easily recognize some of those so a more precise definition would be “an opinion or doctrine contrary to the traditional and established beliefs of a religious body or church.” It’s like making stuff up that’s got a little bit of truth and a lot of lies. Often a heresy evolves because of a selfish, personal, internal reason; it is not part of God’s inspired and tested tradition of faithfulness. There are evil motives and hence false teachings that sway other people using Satan’s favorite tool: Doubt. Remember? “Did God really say …?” Peter systematically reaffirms the truths of Christ’s teaching – by direct personal experience and though references to scripture and revelation as unto Paul. Peter points out that the heretical teachings have no sound scriptural foundation, they devalue and demote the place and purpose of Faith in Jesus’ teachings, and they cast doubt on or even deny the possibility of Christ’s return. Peter marches trough their inconsistent arguments and exposes the falsehood on which they are based.

Peter goes on to say (2Peter 1:5-9) that true faith isn’t simply knowing the stories, knowing the history, of what Jesus said and did. Faith requires action. The history relayed through the early oral history of Christianity had to result in change, in actions that were in line with what Jesus taught – and some of it was pretty radical for the people of his time. Peter emphasized the we need to become more familiar with God – Jesus used the word Abba, “Daddy,” to demonstrate what he meant – and that our faith and intimate knowledge of God would help us love other as Jesus loved them, to endure persecutions with patience and hope, and to live righteously and humbly before God and man. This is not an easy assignment! Think of these things as subjects one studies in school. It seems for our whole lives we are always studying language, math, history, social studies, and science. We work on them all at the same time, slowly mastering more and more of each discipline. IN the same way, we are always learning more and more about how to love and serve God and neighbor.

A littler farther down the page in verses 12-15 Peter points out that he is aware he is going to die soon. He tells them they know all of this, but he must continue to remind then, to refresh their memories, lest they forget the basic truths, he and others have taught them. Remembering that will help protect them when the heretics come calling. In short, stick to the basics, do what I taught you, follow the plan, and you’ll do all right. Does that sound familiar? It’s Coaching 101: Fundamentals. Follow the game plan. Be prepared to do what you know. To do that, Peter reminds them of God’s messages through the prophets, and the message was always redemption. But they were not redeemed with material things or the blood of animals. They were redeemed with the Precious Blood of Christ, the One Word who existed before all ages but was only lately (in Peter’s time) revealed to the world to all of us, “who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

In the beginning of the second chapter of this letter Peter describes some of the heretical practices. He likens them to the ever-present false prophets in Israel’s history – basically flim-flam men who would betray God’s leading for a profit. You might say they were Profit Prophets. In the early churches there were people who professed to be Christian, but were only in it for personal gain. The gossiped about and slandered others, mocked the traditional oral teachings, pooh-pooh Paul’s letters, and tried to lead others into their own debauchery. They portrayed the ancient scripture as quaint fables, the oral traditions of the early church as suspect and, well, silly. Peter warns that those who do not stand in agreement with what the Apostles taught were not teaching the truth. They pretended to be seeking the benefit of others while simply lining their own pockets. Paul had described these heresies as doctrines taught by demons. Those demons are still busily at work this very day, trying to undermine the fundamentals of Jesus’ teachings. Peter reminds them of Noah, of Sodom and Gomorrah, and states flatly that God will cut down the wicked, so those who blaspheme about what they do not even understand are doomed unless they repent. Repentance – life-changing turn-around from sinning to serving – is the prescribed pathway to God. God rescued Noah and Lot, and God sent Jesus so that everyone can be rescued. Not everyone wants to get on board or get out of town when judgment comes.

At the beginning of Chapter 3, which is the last chapter in this short letter, Peter mentions that this is his second letter, and that both of them were written so that they will better understand that long line of authoritative scriptures and revelations that led to Christ’s life with us. He is writing to help them understand that Jesus isn’t just a “one-hit wonder” as we say these days, but the Promised One of Ages. He warns them that there will be people who make fun of that timeline and say, “If he ain’t back by now, he ain’t comin’ back!” Such persons do not understand God’s sense of timing: He is never late and he is never early – he is always precisely on time because he is that master of time. Some people can’t get over the fact that “the last days” is the period of time between Jesus’ ascension and his return in glory. I often hear people say, “I think we really are in the last days.” Yes, we are and we have been for a very long time it seems. However if God gave the Canaanites roughly 400 years to get their act together before sending the Israelites through to wipe them out, might not he wait thousands of years for the rest of us earthlings to catch on? That is a sign of mercy, not evidence of neglect! And when he does return, what would you like him to find you doing at that very moment? It’s a question we often hear, but do not answer well enough or often enough.

The next little bit Peter writes kind of tickles me because it reflects something all of us experience at times. Peter mentions Paul’s letters and the wisdom contained in them, wisdom that is inspired by God in Paul’s role as an apostle. He, and apparently the early church, is already esteeming Paul’s writings as Scripture. Peter goes on to say, “In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.” Sometimes Paul’s lengthy sentences and stacks of adverbs and adjectives overwhelms my thinking, but I suspect Peter wasn’t talking about that. He was saying that what Paul says is deep, and those with shallow minds can’t quite understand they are beyond their depth so they just splash around on the surface and pretend they have conquered the sea.

 

Peter closes this letter, the last before his death in Rome, by saying (2 Peter 3:17-18) Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. (Amen.)

That last sentence really hits home: But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Like that old sixties song says, “To know, know, know Him is to Love, love, love Him, and I do.” As you and I learn to know Jesus – really, really, really KNOW him, we do grow in grace. “From the days of my youth” “I love to tell the story of unseen things above; of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love … I love to tell the story. ‘Twill be my theme in Glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.”  (Please, please follow that link!) That is mainly why I write these things to you, to share my joy in knowing Christ in and through his Word the Holy Scriptures. Some have asked my, “Why use so much Greek and Hebrew?” Scripture is inspired by God, and when we look at the languages men used to convey that inspiration, we get a better feel for what they felt at the time it was written. By placing Scripture in historical and spiritual and linguistic context, we draw closer to the inspired meaning and grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So to me there are these three basic things about how Scripture comes to us. It comes through:

  • Authority – Holy Spirit acts on behalf of the Trinity to reveal the heart and mind of God
  • Tradition – Inspired teaching results from that through and by people chosen by God
  • Scripture – Written testimony to the uniformity and constancy of Authority and Tradition

Sharing a little Greek and Hebrew might help us not just learn the scriptures, but learn what they mean and how to apply them.

 

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

 

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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