A Reminding of God's Basic Truths
Copyright © 1978
Indian Hills Community Church
GR949 - 2 Peter 1:12-15
(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on Mar. 10, 1996)
2 Peter is a small, three-chapter book in which Peter is preparing his readers for his departure and what will result as the apostles pass off the scene. False teachers and false teaching will continue to challenge and press in on the church that God has established through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. We live almost 2,000 years after Peter penned this letter. If we are not familiar with some of the history that has intervened down through those 2,000 years, there is the danger that we may begin to think the battles and conflicts that surround the ministry of the word of God today are something new or something to be avoided. However, the reality is that you and I are the recipients of this letter from Peter, as well as the rest of the Scripture. This results from the faithfulness of men and women down through history who have stood firm against the current and tide of the day and, sad to say, the current and tide of the church during those periods as well.
At the end of the last century, J.C. Ryle, who lived in England, wrote a book. His ministry encompassed the last part of the last century; he lived through a good part of that century. He was a bishop of the Anglican church and was a very solid, biblical and godly individual. He wrote a book entitled Holiness, which was published in 1879. It has been republished and is available today. I encourage you to get that book on holiness and take the time to read it. I want to read you some excerpts from it. I think you will find it very pertinent to what we are going to be talking about in Peter.
Ryle spoke of the condition of the church of his day about these matters that I want to read to you. I want you to note that he wrote this over 100 years ago. But I think you will agree that it sounds like it was written yesterday for our situation. I will not be reading consecutively, and I will not take the time to tell you where the breaks are, but I will read what is pertinent. I will not violate the context of what He is saying.
"There is much in the attitude of professing Christians in this day which fills me with concern and makes me full of fear for the future. There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease of which people are, like children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, in the beaten path of our forefathers. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine without considering for a moment whether what they hear is truth. There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational and exciting and rousing to the feelings. Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and as long as the preacher is clever and earnest, hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully narrow and uncharitable if you hint that he is unsound."
That was from the first part of the book. Let me read you from the last part: "The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing church of the 19th century is as much damaged by laxity and lack of distinctness about matters of doctrine within as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without. Today a myriad of professing Christians seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with color blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error. These people live in a kind of mist, or fog. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of controversy, and an ignorant dislike of 'party spirit', and yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases.
"The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jelly-fish condition of soul is not difficult to find. Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. For your own soul's sake, dare to make up your mind what you believe. Dare to have positive, distinct views of truth and error. Never, yes never, be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions. And let no fear of man, and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colorless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.
1. If Strong Doctrine Is Missing, So Is Authority
"Mark what I say! If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply cut doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing."
That is the danger in churches today where they get a thin guise - very little - of biblical teaching. They are going to raise a generation that believes nothing. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.
J.C. Ryle continues: "The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct, doctrinal theology. But depend on it: If we want to do good things and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons and stick to dogma. Without dogma there will be no fruit. Without positive evangelical doctrine there will be no evangelization."
There is today a current spirit abroad that we ought to get together with Roman Catholicism. We have Roman Catholics and evangelicals promoting alliances in our day. Listen to what J. C. Ryle said: "The times require of us an awakened and livelier sense of the unscriptural character of Romanism. There is no longer that general dislike, dread and aversion to popery which was once almost universal in this realm. Some profess to be tired of all religious controversy and are ready to sacrifice God's truth for the sake of peace. Some try to persuade us that Romanism has changed, and is not nearly so bad as it used to be."
This is a reminder that things have not changed. These comments sound as if they were written to the church at the end of the 20th century, not at the end of the 19th century. And we are reminded that the devil does not change his tactics. He constantly is working to move the church of Jesus Christ away from its solid, doctrinal, biblical foundations. That is where Peter is concerned as he writes this second letter. He is concerned about the infiltration of false teaching and false doctrine. He is concerned enough to remind believers of the truth That is been given to them because the best defense against error, against false doctrine, is a thorough knowledge of the truth which you are to implement every day of your life.
2. We Need to Be Reminded of Truth
In 2 Peter 1, verses 12-15, Peter is going to place a strong emphasis on his responsibility to remind these believers of biblical doctrine and of their responsibility to remember it. We note in this passage that God's plan for His people has not changed. It is that they be constantly focusing on the truth that God has given. We need nothing new. We need nothing more. We need nothing else. We need constant reminders of the old truth.
Look at verse 12 and note the word therefore. This builds upon what he has said in the first 11 verses. The first 11 verses have given us a summary of Christian doctrine. We have come to the true knowledge of the living God and His son only because the sovereignty of God has given us grace that we might believe in Jesus Christ. It is in this salvation, in the true knowledge of God, that we are given everything that pertains to life and godliness - verse 3. We become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust - verse 4. We now are diligent to grow to maturity in this new life that we have in Christ - verses 5-7. And it is essential that we be growing, because this marks us off as true children of God in whose lives God is working. Now, beginning with verse 12, and down to verse 21, the focus is going to be on the importance of God's word as the foundation and center of their lives as God's people.
"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things..." Peter is using the future tense when he says, "I will always be ready to remind you of these things." He is saying, "Whatever ministry I have with you or to you in the future will be a continuation of the ministry I had to you in the past. It will be a presentation of the same truths. I am going to be reminding you. I will always be ready to remind you." There is an emphasis here. The verb is in the present tense and denotes that you are continually doing something. Then you have the word always. As they move into the future, Peter always will be in the process of reminding them. So what is he going to be doing in the future? The same thing He is doing now - reminding them. He wants them to have these truths well in hand.
In verses 13 through 15, Peter tells them that he will constantly remind them of the truths that Christ has made clear to him so they will be able to remember those truths after he dies. Chapter 3, verse 1: "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder." They are to remember the word spoken beforehand by the apostles and prophets. Here is a man at the end of life's road. If he has anything new to give - any alternatives or anything additional - now is the time. Yet he says, "All I want to do is devote the rest of my life to reminding you of these great truths."
In verse 12, "...these things..." refers to the things of verses 1-11. That does not mean everything is here that could be said, but this is a basic summary of God's truth, from God's salvation through your growth as a believer in preparation for the coming eternal kingdom. These are the things on which Peter wants you to focus.
Verse 12 continues: "...even though you already know them and have been established..." in them. He is saying, "I want to remind you, and I will be reminding you, but that does not mean that I think you do not know them or are not established in them. Still, it is absolutely essential that we go over them again." So he gives two participles: even though you know them and are established in them. These are perfect participles. Perfect tense denotes something that has happened in the past, but the results continue in the present. So this is truth they have known and continue to know, that they have been established in and continue to be established in. But Peter still wants to tell them of this truth again and again.
3. We Constantly Remind Our Children of Dangers
Perhaps the simplest illustration of this to which we all relate is the way we are with our children. We warn our children: "Do not get into cars with strangers. If someone pulls over by the curb and wants to talk to you, run to somebody's house." We accelerate those warnings if we get a note from school that says, "Please warn your children that there have been comments about someone in the neighborhood trying to lure children into cars." All of the sudden, we have to tell them again. What is the attitude of the kids sometimes? "Mom, you told me this a hundred times." But you say, "Now you listen!" What are we afraid of? That they say they have not heard it? That they do not know it? No, they know it. We are afraid they will let down their guard and our warning will not be on their minds when the danger confronts them.
That is the way Peter is with the believers to whom he is writing. He does not think they do not know it. He does not think they are not planted on this truth. He is concerned that they will not keep it right in the front of their minds, so to speak. Then false teaching will come, and you know how people get lured into false teaching. Let me use the analogy with your children again. You do not want the child to stop and dally with that person in the car. You do not say to your children: "You listen to him. If you think He is genuine, It is OK. If you think what He is offering you as a gift is something you would like..." No. You say, "Do not talk him!" Believers get into trouble when they say, "Well, let me hear what he has to say. Hmm. You know; it sounds good. Yeah, I would like to have that. I would like it to be that way." That is how they are lured away. Peter wants them to have this truth right up front in their minds, so to speak. "You know this truth." We are never beyond the need to be reminded of what we already know, as God's people. This is especially important in the face of the presence of false teaching and false doctrine.
Turn to the little book of Jude, written to encourage believers to do battle for the faith. Look at what Jude has to say in verse 5: "Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all..." Jude, like Peter, is saying he has to tell them what they already well know and have in hand. Why? They are being faced with the danger of false doctrine and false teaching. That is why we need that fresh in our minds all the time.
Come back to 2 Peter. Not only do they know this truth, they have been established in it - "...even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth..." Established is a strong word. It denotes that they have a firm stability in their faith. He just does not want them to be shaken from that firm stability. Look at the end of 2 Peter, chapter 3. You will see the negative of this concerning false teachers in verse 16. Pick up in the middle of verse 16 where he identifies these false teachers as being "...untaught and unstable..." Unstable. That is the word we are talking about. They are not stable; they are not established in the truth. Verse 17: "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness." Steadfastness; there is our word, established. That is stability.
4. Satan Is a Brilliant, Clever Opponent
Because I know these things and am established in them does not mean that I am not susceptible to being lured away and losing that stability if I become careless. We have a master opponent: the devil. He is brilliant; he is clever. We should never, ever underestimate him. That is what Peter is concerned about. He says, "You know these things; you are established in them, but I do not want that to change." At the end of his first letter, in 1 Peter 5:10, he said that after they are brought through their suffering, God "... will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." They already have been established. That has been done and is ongoing. But he is giving this reminder. He is not reminding them because they know less or have less stability than some others and so need reminders.
We have to look at one other passage - Luke 22 - because Peter really is carrying on the ministry here that Christ said he would have after he recovered from his fall when he denied Christ. This is the last night Christ has with His disciples before He is crucified. Verses 31-32: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen..." - establish - "...your brothers." Peter is carrying out this ministry. It is a ministry He is had in the lives of those to whom he writes, and he wants to continue to establish them.
Come back to 2 Peter 1:12. They know "...and have been established in the truth which is present with you." Jude's way of referring to this is seen in verse 3: "...the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." What was handed down is the truth of God, the gospel of God, the revelation that God has given through His servants to His people. It is interesting to see how many times through just the New Testament that God's word is called the truth. Remember what Jesus said in His high priestly prayer in John 17:17 as He prayed to the Father? "Sanctify them in the truth..." He did not say, "All truth is your truth." He said, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
The church has been infiltrated by doctrine and teaching under the guise of "all truth is God's truth" that goes contrary to this basic, foundational reality of the word of God. That became an excuse to add the thinking of men to the truth of Scripture as though now we would be more effective in dealing with people and sin. How did the church ever get lured astray by such thinking and teaching? We have had hundreds of people exit this church over the issue of, "Is all truth God's truth?" We do not need to fight that battle. All we need to know is that only biblical truth is salvation truth. Only biblical truth is sanctification truth. But I tell you; when that corrupted false teaching confronted many people, who had sat under the ministry of this word for many years, they were not prepared. They were, in effect, lured by the stranger in the car. They had not carefully considered and kept before them this basic, foundational matter - that we know and have been established in the truth, which is the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. All kinds of corruption have infiltrated the church under the slogan, "All truth is God's truth."
5. Hocus-Pocus Thinking Clouds Truth
I wrote down a dozen or so passages in the New Testament that referred to the word of God as being God's truth. We will not take time to look at all of them right now, but in Colossians, chapter 1, Paul is thanking God and praying on their behalf - verse 4 - since he heard of their faith in Christ Jesus. Verses 5-6: "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." What is the church of Jesus Christ to be? "Oh, It is like a hospital, healing the hurts." It is not! 1 Timothy 3:15 says the church is "...the pillar and support of the truth." This is a truth center. This is the place that the truth is proclaimed. This is the place that we constantly and incessantly remind ourselves of the truth. How do God's people miss such a basic, foundational truth of the word of God? How do they get lured astray by such hocus-pocus thinking that all truth is God's truth; therefore, we take God's truth wherever we find it and use it and implement it when we minister to people and deal with sin? That is deceitful, false teaching!
"You know "...and have been established in the truth which is present with you," Peter says in 2 Peter 1:12. Verse 13: "I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder." Peter says it is his God-given responsibility and obligation as a servant of Jesus Christ to constantly remind them of God's word. As long as I am in this earthly dwelling is a picturesque way of stating this physical life. The word is simply the word for tabernacle or tent. Peter is saying, "as long as I am living in this tent." He views his physical body as a temporary residence, and it will soon be folded up and set aside because He is moving out. As long as I am in this temporary, physical body; that is the same analogy Paul used in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. Paul spoke of these physical bodies as being tents that at death for us believers are folded up and set aside because we have moved out into the presence of the glory of the eternal God.
Peter has that same view. Note his attitude as he says, in effect: "As long as I am in this physical body, I must be about serving my Lord. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up. You know the opportunities for serving the Lord on this earth will soon be past. I want to take every occasion to remind you, to stir you up. He uses that phrase in a picturesque, and it is another present tense - to be stirring you up. It is a word that carries the idea of awakening someone from sleep or to alert someone who has become drowsy. The picture is that he wants to keep them spiritually alert and ready. The danger is that spiritual drowsiness will overtake them, and thus they become insensitive to the danger of the false teaching.
Again, we can use the analogy of our children. You are not so concerned about someone enticing them when you know they are alert to the danger and that when the car slows up by the curb and the window goes down, they take off. What you are concerned about is the time when they will get so caught up with other things that they will become insensitive to what you've warned them about. They will be drowsy, lax, and thus, vulnerable. Peter says, "I do not want that to happen to you. These reminders are a way of shaking you, of keeping you alert, because we do tend to get drowsy. And we get drowsy with spiritual things."
We have been through these truths so many times. You know how it is when you are first saved. Boy, you just cannot get enough of it. It is new and you want as much teaching as you can get. After you are a believer for a while, you say, "Well, I do not think we need to be in a Bible study through the week. And there is a lot going on with our family. We have busy weeks. We need some time together as a family, so let us cut out Sunday night church." We fail to appreciate that it is no less important after we have been Christians for 25 years than it was when we had been Christians for only two days. We become somewhat lax. We were alienating friends and relatives left and right in those early days. "But now that I have been a believer for 25 years, I realize I just cannot fight with everybody. So they have their beliefs and I have mine, and, "uh," let us not get into it." That is what Peter does not want to happen. He is saying, "You keep this constantly before you. Keep constantly alert."
6. Peter Sensed an Urgency to Remind Believers
Look at verse 14: "knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me." Peter knows the end is near. In John 21:18-19, Jesus said to Peter in the presence of other disciples that when you were young, you went where you wanted. When you are old, They are going to take you where you do not want to go. By this, we understand that Peter was going to die an unpleasant death as a martyr. More than 30 years have passed since Jesus spoke those words to Peter. He is not a young man. He senses and knows that the end is near. He sees what is taking place around him. He realizes the animosity and opposition to Jesus Christ will catch him in its snare and result in his execution. So It is all the more important that he devote himself to reminding these people who will be left to stand in the face of deceitful teachers, of false doctrine, of corrupt lifestyle. They must defend the truth and be faithful.
Peter is like a parent who may be dying while his children are still young. What do parents in that situation want to do? They want to call them, talk to them, exhort them. "Oh, remember to do this. Promise me you will do this." It is important. You will not be here for them to fall back on. You will not be here to remind them. So you have to do it now. Sometimes It is hard for them to appreciate how important it is that they hear it again, but It is important. Peter says, "My life is near its end. I have to keep reminding you." I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted. How would you have reacted if you knew what Peter knew about his life? I sometimes think it would be downhill from John 21 for many of us. All We would have been able to think of is, "Oh, boy, I do not have much to look forward to. They are going to martyr me. I am going to die a painful and unpleasant death."
Do you know what we, as Christians, would be doing today? We would have Peter here to give a testimony, and we would say, "Peter, tell us how you feel. Peter, what does your wife think? Peter, what have you said to your kids in light of the fact that you know you are going out of this world in not a very good way? Peter, do you sleep at night?" We would have had Peter in counseling. "I mean, how can I serve the Lord? I have got this hanging over me. You know, I do not like pain. I know what they can do to people. And with the passing of years, It is gotten harder because every knock at the door makes me jump. I am afraid to share the word of God because I think that could be the event that triggers it."
You just do not get that attitude with the apostles Peter and Paul. Paul does not take that approach in his last letter - 2 Timothy. They had a much more biblical view of death. Let me read to you what one writer said: "We have much to learn from Peter's attitude to death. He had for years been living with death. He knew that his lot would be to die in a horrible and painful way, yet he can speak of it in this wonderful way, apparently without fear or regret."
7. Retirement Is No Time to be Idle
All I want is to be faithful in my ministry until I leave. We start thinking, "Oh, boy, I have only 20 or 30 years left on this earth. I have got to retire and start enjoying life. I have to get to the point in my life where I do not do anything but play." We have people retiring at 50, idling the rest of their time away. That is as much total time as Peter had for his whole ministry. But we somehow justify becoming idle and pleasing ourselves because life is short. It is short, but do you know the difference between believers and unbelievers? Believers are strangers and pilgrims here. We are servants of the living God, going diligently about his business until He calls us to glory. Yet when we know we are going to die, or when we get near the end of life, what do we think? "I have got to take advantage of all the remaining time I have. I must go about and see the scenery, enjoy life and do all the things I did not get to do."
I want to ask, "Where are you going?" The world says, "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die." They ought to live like that because it is all they have. But if you have been living in a ratty, torn, ragged tent and you are about to move into a $50 million palace, you do not say, "I have just got to spend as many years as I can looking over this tent and the weeds around it. I do not want to miss anything here. This is just so wonderful!" If that is the case, I do not think you have a true perspective. Is it any wonder the world does not see us as being any different? We have adopted its lifestyle. "I have got to go for the gusto! I have got to get all I can here because, you know, life is short." Praise God that it is, and I can finally get on to glory!
I know the joke - good news, bad news. Good news: You are going to heaven when you die. Bad news: Today is the day. I realize that would be my thought if the doctor said to me this week, "I understand you believe in heaven." Sure do, doctor. "I understand you are anxious to get there." Yes, I am. "That is good to hear because you are going!" Oh, no! Oh, no! There has got to be a cure. I am not saying we are anxious to die. I am saying we ought to view death differently than the way that it is viewed by the world.
I was reading some of the old writers, including Calvin. I have to say they drew a line between believers and unbelievers on the basis of how they viewed death. We ought to learn something from Peter. What really matters? Was he thinking about taking a trip to see the Mediterranean during his final days on earth? No. He was writing a letter to remind them of what they already knew! What about his grandkids? I assume he had children, and by this time he probably had grandchildren. If I were the one writing this letter, it would be to my kids and grandkids. That is why Peter was an apostle. He talked about the urgency he felt for them because he was about to lay aside his earthly dwelling. He was about to fold up this tent.
8. We Look Forward to Folding Our Tents
Turn to 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, where Paul uses that same analogy in the first four verses. In fact, he says in verse 4: "We groan while we are in this tent." We are looking forward to what God has prepared for us and for the time when we will be in a glorified body. It will not be this tattered tent. Verse 5: "Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge" - a guarantee. Verse 6: "Therefore, being always of good courage..." - I sense that in Peter's writing he is of good courage - "...and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord - for we walk by faith, not by sight - we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."
We see that Peter, too, is prepared, and He is about the ministry of the Lord. I grieve for the people who waste the last 10, 15, or 20 years of their lives when they could have devoted that time to the service of their God right up to the end. "But I have to have fun." That is what the world does. It drops out and does nothing. What a tragedy! What a waste! Have we ceased to be servants? Have we ceased to be about His business? I have to do that to the end. May Peter be a model for us.
Come back to 2 Peter 1:15. "And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." Diligent: He also used that word back in verse 5: "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence...." And again in verse 10: "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent..." Now He is saying that he will be diligent with them. He will be diligent and apply himself with zeal and enthusiasm "...that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." That word departure is literally the word exodus. It is used in the Old Testament concerning the exodus out of Egypt by the people of Israel. It is also used in Luke 9:31 when Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration about His departure, His impending death at Jerusalem. They used the word exodus, because that is what death is. The body without the spirit is dead, and at physical death I am exiting. I am moving out, and this physical tent will collapse. Fold it up; put it in the ground. I am going to glory.
One day God will raise that tent. It will be remade with glory indescribable, and I will move back in. Peter, after his departure, wants them at any time, at all times, to be able to call these things to mind. That is what I want to do with my life. I want to constantly remind you so that in every situation, at all times, whenever the need arises, you remember it. We get into trouble because we are like our kids, We say, "Oh, yeah, I know. I know." Then a situation comes up and catches us off guard. We were not ready. Peter says, "I do not want that to happen. I want you to call these things to mind at any time after my departure."
I want you to note two things that we have looked at in these verses. One, there is a lot of repetition. "I want to remind you. I want to remind you. I want you to remember." Because of that emphasis on reminding and remembering, the importance of the truth that God has given has been strongly emphasized in these verses Acts 2:42 says the people in the early church "...were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching..." That was not to change after the apostles passed off the scene. Note 1 Timothy 3:15: "...the church of the living God (is) the pillar and support of the truth."
9. Truth Is Unchanging; Beware of Methods that Change
We have apostolic succession, but it is not in a line of men who pass along authority from one to another. It is the passing on of apostolic truth that goes from one generation to the next, in the context of the ministry of the truth in local churches. We do not need something new. These are not different days. We do not even need new methods. In the last century, they called them "new measures", and it became a disguise to undermine the sound, biblical doctrine. "Oh, we will not change the truth; we are only changing the methods." Truth is unchanging; methods are not. I want to say something that I know will get me in trouble. I believe methods and message are inseparable. We have created an environment where now we tell stories. We provide entertainment and act it out. All of that moves us away from apostolic doctrine and creates a general knowledge of biblical things that does not prepare or equip us to face false doctrine and false teaching.
Let me read to you from another writer, John Lilly, who wrote a commentary on Peter in 1869. He said, concerning the situation in his day, "But then it is by itself no proof at all that the work is prospering..." - in other words, He is saying, "Just because your work is prospering does not prove that it is honoring to God" - "...that a crowd follows the preacher. The liveliest interest may pervade the congregation when in the pulpit there is the scantiest exhibition of the apostolic themes." And that is true. As churches seem to get larger and more popular and people are more exited about them, the more true, sound, apostolic doctrine is removed from those services.
I emphasize that John Lilly wrote this more than 125 years ago. The devil's tactics do not change. Of course, we do it under the guise of, "There are changes in some methods, but we are not altering the message." Yes, you are. You are no longer focused on grappling with the Scripture and seriously wrestling with the text. Understand what God has said. We are giving a presentation in a general sense of truth. That is not preaching apostolic doctrine. "In fact, John Lilly says, "No failure can be more disastrous because there are so few so criminal." From his perspective, it was criminal to have a ministry that was not clearly expounding apostolic doctrine. That is what is happening in the church today, and it happened 100 years ago. Praise God that down through the 2,000 years since the New Testament was given, the faithfulness of our God has worked through and in His people so that you and I are privileged to come together and say, "Turn in your Bibles, and study the text."
I was reading a book this week on homiletics. What did the writer have to say? He says, "Our goal in preaching is not to teach people the Bible." He has since left the pastorate and is now a professor of homiletics at an evangelical seminary. What are those people learning? Men there are being told, "Our goal is not to teach people the Bible." He bemoans the fact that there are 10-minute sermons being preached. He says you cannot cover anything in 10 minutes. But he also says no sermon should last longer than 20 minutes.
10. We Must Battle until God Calls Us Home
Consider one other thing. If we are really committed to truth as God's truth, we also must have the Apostle Peter's attitude toward death. I am called to devote myself to the ministry of His truth in the context of His body until He calls me into His presence. In reality, there is no retirement from the service of our God. There may be opportunity for you, because of the way we are functioning in our society, to devote more of your time to the service of your God because you are free from certain other responsibilities at certain points in time. But we are not free. We are His servants and slaves, and this life should be a battle, a warfare, a daily grind until He calls us into His presence. Then we have all eternity to enjoy glory, to enjoy the fullness of the rest that God has prepared for His people. May we individually and as a church be focused on truth until we are called into His presence through death or at the rapture.
Let us pray together.
Thank You, God, that You are faithful, and that we are here studying Your word because You are faithful. Even when we are not faithful, You are faithful. Lord, we do thank You for Your grace in the lives of many of Your saints, not only the apostles and prophets, but Lord, down through the history of the church. You, in mercy and grace, have raised up men and women who have been firmly committed to truth. They have paid a price, humanly speaking, to be faithful. They were willing to go against the tide of the day to be faithful. Lord, I pray that we might stand in that line also, that we individually might be faithful, that we as a church might be faithful. Lord, may we not become lax or drowsy, but Lord, may we be alert and aware and busy about Your work, until You see fit to call us into Your very presence. Thank You for the privilege, in Christ's name. Amen.
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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