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19They [the heretics] promise them [new Christians] freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
(2nd Peter 2:19-22, ESV)
Luther once wrote that “we daily sin much”—which, of course, is why “daily contrition and repentance” is a wise and healthy practice for each Christian. Haven’t been doing very well with that? As one preacher put it, “There’s a reason why the windshield is so much bigger than the rear-view mirror.” Start it up, or start it back up.
The difference between us and those who were believers but commit apostasy, or at least abandon Christian faith and life and run away from Christ, is this: we lament our weakness in the face of temptation; we confess our sins to the Lord; and we hunger and thirst to be rid of the sin, weakness, and vulnerability that still bark at our heels and bother us. The flagrant false teachers don’t.
The apostle says that it’s harder—if not impossible—for those who blatantly desert God’s Word and his will for them, to be brought back again to holy Christian faith and life. Once again, ours is not to judge; and Peter knew that. God is the one who determines whether any given soul can still be rescued. We are simply being warned, seemingly with tears, not to be taken in by licentiousness, which is the lie that says grace and mercy are a two-part license to sin: to wantonly, willfully embrace sin—whether immorality, hateful and hurtful words and deeds, or any other departure from God’s Word and the Christian way.
Please join me in prayer: “O Lord, purify us from all unrighteousness, we pray. We ask you also to fortify our fidelity where are weak, and to shore up our defenses wherever we find ourselves vulnerable to temptation. We pray that you would multiply in our hearts the love of your will and your ways, and that you would forgive us our sins and equip us again for faithful discipleship as Christians. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
(2nd Peter 2:14-18, ESV)
Remember, these heretical villains are proud, defiant, and confident that they can outrun (or outwit) God. Balaam learned otherwise. He was a prophet, but was willing to speak falsely for money (a foreign king tried to bribe him into cursing God’s holy people, just before that king’s army would face the Israelites in battle; see Numbers, chapters 22-24). In the process of lassoing Balaam and getting him back on the right path, God allowed Balaam’s donkey to deliver a rebuke to Balaam. (Remember, a “donkey” is often called an “ass,” as in: “Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?”)
In the 2002 motion picture “Luther,” the young professor says: “When I became a monk, I believed the monk’s cowl would make me holy. Now they have made me a Doctor of Divinity; and I’m tempted to think that this scholar’s robe will make me wise. Well, God once spoke through the mouth of an ass, and perhaps he’s about to do so again.” The class roared with laughter. Luther was keenly aware of the temptations to self-importance that barked at his soul. Yet he humbly (though not always politely) spoke and taught the truth.
It is shameless, greedy speakers of lies, purveyors of enticements to sin, on whom Peter has set his sights. They proudly promote their own importance; they crave influence; they seem blissfully unaware of their own conceit—or else they just don’t care. They target new converts who have only recently emerged from the tangled webs weaved by first-century paganism. Inviting them to reckless moral abandon, the troublemakers ask: “God wants you to feel good, doesn’t he?” The right response to that entrapment would be: “Yes, but for more than an hour or two.”
Can these bad boys be rescued, reclaimed, reformed? The possibility can hardly be denied, but Peter makes it clear they have gotten very far along in shameless, willful rebellion. So, it looks like the chances are slim, the prospects bleak. But ours, as Peter knew, is not to judge. The severity of the apostle’s tone is meant to warn the penitent believers not to be taken in by the bad guys’ lies.
We pray for the Holy Spirit to keep us increasing in sanctification, growing in holiness. We pray he will convict us of our sins and work repentance in our hearts. We pray that those who have strayed away from God’s Word and will would “Return to the Lord, their God…” We pray that bitter and hostile opponents of the Gospel and the Christian faith would be reached, and repent, and embrace the Gospel truth (remember Saul [Paul] of Tarsus, later of Antioch).
I pray also for your (and my) steadfastness in following Jesus; for the prospering of the Christian Church to the glory of God and the benefit of many souls; for the end of Covid’s run, and for health all around; and for “grace upon grace” to be granted to each of you, and to all of us, for Jesus’ sake. In his name, Amen.
10bBold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. (2nd Peter 2:10b-13, ESV)
The false teachers Peter describes are not “poor, miserable sinners”: they are arrogant, willful sinners who “glory in their shame” (see Philippians 3:19). They don’t sin due to weakness; they sin with defiance. Charging the table of the Holy Eucharist, they effectively challenge God, saying: “Catch us if you can.” Peter assures us that God’s response to that is: “Can do.” Lord, deliver us from such enemies who oppose you and your Gospel!
The godly know that judgment belongs to the Lord; the ungodly think they can snatch it from him. But we, seeking to imitate Christ, to be in fellowship with the Father, and to be governed by the Holy Spirit, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Our job is not to judge anyone, nor to celebrate anyone’s downfall; instead, we ought to pray for them to wake up, repent, and obey God’s Word.
Another takeaway here is that we don’t use the brazen badness of open, willful sinners to defend our own faults as “not so bad.” Yes, we could be worse off spiritually. But we’re not in a contest; and we don’t want to forget, daily, to confess our own sins and seek God’s renewing mercy. Plus, it’s clear that we still have room for growth in our faith, hope, and unselfish love. The fact that someone else may be a worse mess should never lead us to feel content with little or no spiritual growth. We ask our Lord to build us up while keeping us humble.
The bad apples Peter describes in such detail defy biblical morality. And what they don’t desecrate, they distort. We ask God to govern our hearts and minds so that we pray for all; seek to grow in our imitation of Christ; and look for ways to put him first and show his kind of love to our brethren and to our neighbors. “Grant this, Lord, to us all”! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2nd Peter 2:4-10, ESV)
The word translated “trials” can also be rendered “temptations.” Either way, the theme here is twofold: (1) God takes sin seriously; and (2) he also rescues the righteous—who confess their sins and ask for mercy and grace—from both trouble and temptation.
The apostle outlines two kinds of people: (1) those who admit their faults, seek God’s forgiveness, and ask for grace to do better at living by God’s Word; and then (2) those who glory in their shame. May our loving Lord maintain us steadfastly, and safely, in the first category.
Peter warns of judgment by God against open sinners, and gives famous examples of the rescued righteous: not sinless people, but penitent sinners who are loyal to the Lord. Gospel truth, godliness, and purity will always have their detractors and their sworn enemies. God’s faithful people hope for, and pray for, the conversion and rescue of those mired in sin and opposed to God and his Word.
Two signs seen at various churches come to mind here. One sign, often placed by the exit from a church or its parking lot, says: “You are now entering the mission field.” Another sign, likely placed near the entrance to a church, says: “This is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” We do well to take both to heart.
May God, who loves us with an everlasting love, motivate and equip us to be his ambassadors who promote the knowledge of Jesus our Savior; who ask him to forgive us and renew us; and who rejoice when a soul is transferred from “the domain of darkness” to God’s “marvelous light.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
(2nd Peter 2:1-3, ESV)
The Lutheran Study Bible notes that the false teachers, who introduce dangerous heresies, probably advocated moral license, making this part of Peter’s second letter similar to the epistle by Jude (a one-chapter exhortation to stay on the straight and narrow and to live by God’s Word). Jude warned his readers about heretics who, in effect, turn God’s grace into a license to commit sin, including sins of the flesh. Peter sounds the same warning.
The marketing strategy of the “bad guys” (who claim that God doesn’t care what you do with your body, as long as your heart is “in the right place”—note the inherent contradiction) is to claim that God wants us to have pleasure in life, and he’s already forgiven us for whatever we might do. Clearly, that’s moral recklessness. Good parents love their daughters and sons unconditionally: but that doesn’t mean they don’t care what choices they make! In fact, it makes them care that much more about their kids’ choices.
Purity; respect for the comfort and dignity of others: these are obviously godly, pleasing to the Lord. They’re also very loving toward our brothers, sisters, and neighbors. We can find and clarify what does and what doesn’t please God in the Bible. God’s Word has numerous descriptions of how he wants us to live and to treat others, as well as what he wants us to practice and what we should avoid. One more compelling reason to spend time in the Word!
And as to defending the comfort and safety of others, that’s usually not very hard to figure out. We have been forced by a pandemic to find alternative ways to build others up: but a heart that’s determined to bless people is the same priceless gem as before. We know we can trust the Holy Spirit to make our hearts that way; and, when needful, to restore such a heart within us.
May God fortify your bond with Jesus; and may he nurture and sustain a loving and pure heart within you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
(2nd Peter 1:16-21, ESV)
“Eyewitnesses of his majesty,” the apostle says. What a sight that must have been. A sneak preview of the restoration of the glory Jesus set aside to come, at his First Advent, as the Suffering Servant who would purchase our redemption.
“By his death he destroyed the power of death,” we say at committals (but I hope not only at committals). By his resurrection he promised us eternal life in immortal bodies. And some days (at least) we join the rest of creation in groaning, as we muddle through this pilgrimage in our frail “tents.”
As most of you have heard one preacher or another say, thanks to what Jesus did at his First Advent our heavenly Father says to each of us what he said to Jesus: “You are my beloved son,” or, “You are my beloved daughter.” And on account of the perfect righteousness of Jesus, in which we are “dressed,” the Father is also “well-pleased" with us.
As I’ve said before in sermons: When we’re told that each of us who has been baptized into Christ has been clothed with Christ, we encounter the one setting in which the clothes really do “make the man” (or the woman, or the child). God is good! And the Spirit is still busy at his labor of love to “sanctify us through and through” (see 1st Thessalonians 5). Lord, we know we have far to go: but thank you for your progress already made in each of us!
With the New Testament as “…the prophetic word more fully confirm” (and fulfilled, and explained), we can apply to both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures the apostolic statement of divine inspiration: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” So, we affirm without hesitation that the Holy Bible is the Word of the living God.
Please, feed on it richly! I pray that your faith and mine will be so well fed, strong, and growing that we beg our Lord for chances to share it, explain it, and defend it: in a word, to “Pass it on”! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2nd Pete 1:12-15, ESV)
How Jesus made it clear to Peter that the latter would be departing soon for Heaven, we cannot say. Peter doesn’t tell us. But those who heard these words read in the assemblies likely gasped. “Say it isn’t so” would have been the prevailing sentiment in their hearts. Yet when it’s time, it’s time. Only our holy faith lets us hear comments like that without undue distress.
“Established in the truth,” the Christians to whom Peter writes still need reminders. We, frail as we are, can be so apt to forget what we learned, what we know. And in the New Testament we have the Word given through the prophets made even clearer, as we see the culmination of the story of our salvation and the “reminders” the Spirit gave through the letters and prophecies of the apostles and evangelists.
To quote Mr. Beaver in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (by C.S. Lewis), God has us “…well looked after.” So then, let’s not neglect the sources of spiritual nutrition so lavishly provided for us! Listen to sermons. Use devotional material. Sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Fannie Crosby once said that people learn as much from hymns as they do from sermons. Share with your fellow believers what works best for you. In this buffet you cannot overeat!
What was it like to sit at Peter’s feet and hear him teach about Jesus? He who came back from a triple denial of his connection to Christ must have been thrilling to listen to (remember the three cleansing affirmations of his love for Jesus by the lake, after the Resurrection). Recall the vigor of Peter’s Spirit-driven Pentecost sermon. Wow. May we review the Word of God often and consistently! If we do, it will have a very large positive impact upon our lives and our witness for Christ.
God bless your walk with Jesus. May he grant you the thrill of telling someone about your faith and that walk. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For whoever lacks these qualities [virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and unselfish love] is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2nd Peter 1:9-11, ESV)
To “confirm” one’s calling and election is to “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16b, ESV). Our Spirit-given faith should produce fruit, as Jesus exhorted his apostles and other disciples.
As Martin Luther put it, “Faith alone justifies [receives God’s forgiveness and acquittal, thanks to Jesus]; but faith is never alone.” We pray earnestly that the Holy Spirit will make us more and more fruitful in the ways Peter described in verses 5 – 7 (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and unselfish love).
Diligence in discipleship is generated and sustained in each and all of us when the Holy Spirit “…governs our hearts and minds,” forming in us the mindset of Christ (see Philippians 2:5-11). This is akin to spiritual wakefulness (see Mark 13:32-27). Advent begins with that Gospel reading and a focus on these things. The apostles and evangelists are members of a team.
Twin threats always lurk about, seeking to diminish our effectiveness in living out our faith: spiritual stagnation (even in a state of spiritual infancy); and spiritual apathy (where prayer is mainly a “panic button,” and we’ll call on Jesus or the Holy Spirit “if we need them”—a dangerous mode to slip into!). Luther hit the nail on the head (pardon the pun): “Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word”: for that implies, and generates, steadfastness in prayer.
O Lord, hear our prayer, and grow our faith, hope, and unselfish love rooted and grounded in Jesus! Make us diligent, fruitful, confident, and joyful as your sons and daughters by faith in Christ. And please bless us astoundingly! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
For this very reason, 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. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2nd Peter 1:5-8, ESV)
The New Testament contains a number of succinct, handy descriptions of Christian discipleship. This is one of them. Note, though, that “succinct” is not a synonym for “easily achieved.” In explaining the Commandments, Dr. Luther sought to make them accessible, but also a tad rigorous. Peter’s Virtue Catalog calls for a large measure of spiritual maturity.
This is why we start with “baby steps” and work our way up to a healthy stride, all (of course) by the grace and strength that God supplies: the spiritual energy that he imparts. It may be the case, for some disciples, that their first step toward unselfishly promoting others, and building them up (“love” in the text above; in Greek, Agape) is no more than the cessation of gossip. Or perhaps it may be a fresh new look at the 8th Commandment: initial efforts to “put the best construction on everything.” Step by step the disciple moves toward “…regarding others more highly than himself (or herself)” (see Philippians 2:3).
The apostle also noted the importance of ongoing spiritual feeding and growth: ongoing until we see Jesus face to face. Peter wrote: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The reason we need to consistently keep feeding (Word and Sacrament) and growing (the increase of the virtues Peter lists) is that the alternative is to regress—to see one’s spiritual maturity decrease. There’s really no “standing still.”
“Ineffective” and “unfruitful” may sting when we read them, especially if we’re aware of our own growth areas. But like any good teacher, the apostle doesn’t want to put any dents in our morale: he wants to fire us up, to spur us on to godly action. “The Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12); Peter tells us that we should be, too. The old cultural proverb puts it well: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” May our gracious and loving Lord augment and sustain our Christian momentum!
“Virtue” (or “excellence”) calls to mind purity, innocence of motive, etc. “Knowledge” refers to an awareness of what constitutes godly living and discernment of God’s will for your life and choices. Self-control has many aspects, including the ability to practice “the ministry of holding one’s tongue.” Each of the holy attributes the apostle mentions could be studied and expounded upon at length. The list Peter gives—like other such lists in the NT—isn’t meant to be exhaustive: rather, more like well-rounded.
My prayer for us all is that the Spirit, who began a “good work” in us (sanctification), will keep at it until we greet Jesus in person. Indeed, we have that promise! In Jesus’ name, Amen. J
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2nd Peter 1:3-4, ESV)
“Partakers of the divine nature”: Because “…our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1st John 1:3, ESV). We don’t become divine; rather, we have the joyous privilege of being blessed by God and inheriting eternal life in immortal bodies—according to his lavish promises.
It’s not that we’re granted to wield divine power: instead, we are transformed, preserved, and saved by it. We have Jesus’ “precious and very great promises” that (1) by his divine power he will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body [Philippians 3:21]; and that (2) he will come back to finally take us home [John 14:1-3].
“…having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire”: We were rescued by God from futile thinking and living, in which sin causes a person to indulge freely in selfish passions—be they carnal and fleshly, prideful, mean-spirited, or simply hurtful to others (or any combination thereof). This doesn’t mean we never have to repent of any of that; but it does mean that (1) such worldly mindsets do not drive our bus, and that (2) thanks to the work of the Lord, we learn to be aghast at our sins and ask urgently for God to forgive us and to renew us.
These two verses from 2nd Peter 1 are a complex, carefully structured Greek sentence. This fact prompted some to claim that Peter, a Galilean fisherman, couldn’t have authored this epistle. But don’t forget about Silvanus (or, possibly, his successor). It’s not far-fetched (at least to me) to imagine this exchange: “Peter, Sir, I understand your meaning. Can we trust the Spirit to give me the right words while I make a beautiful sentence here?” “Well, my friend, you’ve been a faithful assistant. Have at it!”
To wrap-up: We are richly blessed, because the same Spirit who joined us to Jesus by faith is forming his mindset in each of us, and gives harmony to the lot of us who call on the name for Christ for mercy, abundant life, and salvation. In his name, even Jesus, Amen!
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2ndPeter 1:1-2, ESV)
Because the faith of those who believe in Christ based upon the apostles’ testimony clings to the same Jesus, and receives the same blessings (forgiveness, eternal life, close fellowship with the triune God), it is “of equal standing” with the faith of eyewitnesses—those who saw and heard Jesus at his first Advent. Jesus told Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29b, ESV).
We don’t know for sure whether Silvanus was still on the job, or whether Peter found a new scribbler to transcribe his words for him. We do know that the apostle’s helper lent his mastery of the Greek language to the work of writing down Peter’s inspired thoughts. And by faith we trust that the Holy Spirit guided both Peter and his assistant.
2nd Peter serves to reinforce the confidence of Christians who face opposition from unbelieving philosophers, and from false teachers who distort the Christian message. Leading Jesus’ Church “…into all the truth” (see John 16:13), the Holy Spirit refutes the lies and false claims of opponent after opponent of true Christian teaching.
And should we err (even accidentally), the same Spirit clears up our confusion and sets us back on solid prophetic and apostolic ground (Biblical ground). I liked the prayer a colleague once prayed for our group of campus pastors: “Where we are wrong, correct us. Where we are right, strengthen us. In all things direct and guide us.”
The “multiplication” of grace and peace call to mind the work of the Spirit of the Lord to “mold and fashion” us into the image of Christ, making us more like him in our thought, speech, and action. And the phrase, “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” calls to mind the two natures of Christ; his successful work to reconcile us to the Father; and our fervent desire to yet more clearly discern God’s will for in our life day by day.
My goal as a Christian pastor, in preaching and in teaching, is to bolster your clarity in the study of Scripture; to watch your level of Jesus-based joy increase as you feed on the rich fare of the Bible; and to hear you answer “…with gentleness and respect…” whenever someone asks you why you think you’ll live forever. God bless richly! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
(1st Peter 5:12-14, ESV)
We know that Silvanus (also called Silas) helped Peter in some way with this letter. We don’t know if Silas took Peter’s dictation, suggested some of the wording, or simply delivered the letter to be circulated (most likely, from house church to house church). At any rate, Peter is the inspired author and Silas was his assistant.
The “kiss of love” is a kiss expressing agape: other-promoting gift love. We can conclude it was not on the lips. It expressed a gentle spirit. How we miss our hugs and handshakes (at least beyond our own households): May God return them to us soon!
“Babylon” was NT code for Rome, especially when Christians in the Roman Empire were still enduring persecution from the government. In Revelation, John depicts “Babylon” as a harlot sitting on seven hills—a clear allusion to Rome. Who is afflicting Jesus’ Church in what places changes over time; yet most of the time, someone is warring against the Church and the Gospel somewhere in the world. That reality should probably show up in our prayers—individual and corporate (group)—more than it does.
Though succinct in his conclusion of this first epistle, Peter is profound. He has a pastor’s heart full of love for the believers to whom he writes. He urgently exhorts all Christians to steadfastly cling to God’s truth, and God’s design for their lives.
As a young man this apostle was sometimes impetuous and over-confident. Now, a seasoned preacher, pastor, and missionary, St. Peter teaches the value of depending on God’s grace and seeking his good will every day. May the Lord of the Church empower us in these ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1st Peter 5:5-7, ESV)
I love the way the last part of this text was rendered above the exit to the worship area at the church I grew up attending: “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.” More about that in a moment.
My wife’s adorable third graders are dedicated people-pleasers. If an adult in their life (parent, grandparent, teacher) is unhappy about their behavior, they can feel devastated until the situation gets fixed. Their sincere young hearts crave affirmation. They thrive on praise from adults. With grace from God we can mimic these third graders again; and to do so is to be spiritually strong.
We “humble [ourselves]” before God when we get on our knees—whether literally or metaphorically—and confess our sins, seeking the pardon and cleansing God gives in holy absolution: be that spoken by a pastor, reminded to us by a fellow disciple, read in Scripture, or recalled by a penitent sinner. And God exalts us—lifts us up—by assuring our hearts that thanks to Jesus our sin is forgiven and our guilt has been atoned for.
We “cast our anxieties on him” in prayer, and he reminds us of his love and providence. The Spirit reminds us of the Father’s mercy on account of the Son, which greets us fresh and new each morning. Although we wander back into worry on a regular basis, our Lord does not leave us wallowing there for long. A word from a faithful friend, a refreshing event, an unexpected boost for our faith—one way or another God snaps us back out of the fiction of self-reliance and reminds us to lean on Jesus.
May the triune God lift you up today, enliven your faith in Christ, and confirm your consistency in prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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