Dan Starcevich

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Peter's End Time Survival Guide: Perseverance and Godliness

Let’s survey what we have learned from Peter so far about thriving at the end of the end times.  Peter started with a reminder to reflect on the reality and riches of our salvation (2 Peter 1:3-5a).  Then, he commanded that we take definite, purposeful, vigorous action to grow spiritually (v. 5b).  Then Peter began to describe our goal, the seven qualities of an effective and fruitful spiritual life.  So far these have been virtue, which is the pursuit of excellence (v. 5c); knowledge, the intellectual grasp of what God has revealed in His word (v. 5d); self-control, the power to direct one’s thoughts, emotions, and will (v. 6a).  Peter now introduces two more elements essential to a thriving, productive, God-pleasing life.  These are perseverance and godliness.

Perseverance is simply carrying on when things are tough.  It is sometimes confused with patience.  To get a good idea of the difference, consider a person whose job it is to deliver your mail.  Day after day the postal worker makes their rounds.  It is the same route, doing the same thing, every day, six days a week, all year long.  They need patience in the midst of the daily grind and tedium.  Patience allows them to get through the monotony without getting upset.  Now consider that same postal worker bringing the mail through a raging snowstorm.  Their progress is delayed by high winds, blowing and blinding snow, icy roads, perhaps they also need to contend with careless drivers.  What’s more, bone chilling cold greets them every time they stop to deposit the mail in a mailbox.  Perseverance is the quality that keeps them moving forward through all the challenges.

If you are a faithful Christian who is trying to lead a holy life you will most certainly be faced with challenges and will need perseverance.  The apostle Paul warned that everyone who desires to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).  Martin Luther, who knew something about persecution, wrote “For if you believe and lead a good, Christian life, the world will not let you alone. It must persecute you and be your enemy.”1

Forewarned is forearmed.  Time to get ready.  As Luther says the world is our enemy.  The world or kosmos is the whole system of values, economics, law, politics, education, and entertainment that characterizes our age.  More than that, these systems are mutually supporting and are joined in their opposition to God.  If you don’t fit in with this system, then the whole system reacts against you.  Just ask Jack Phillips. 

Jack is a follower of Jesus.  He is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop right down the road from me in Lakewood Colorado.  Jack refused to celebrate a homosexual marriage by baking a wedding cake for the couple.  By saying “no” he declared his refusal to fit in with the values of the world. Instead he chose to follow Biblical values.  As a result, every part of the Colorado legal system was brought to bear against Jack.  He was first ordered by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to make the cake.  He appealed within the state and every appeal failed.  Finally, in a last recourse, Jack appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court where the Colorado decisions were reversed.  Jack persevered.  He ultimately prevailed.  Nevertheless, Jack proves that the kosmos is opposed to anyone who desires to live a godly life.  Are you prepared to persevere for your values?  Make every effort Peter commanded (1 Peter 1:5).  Will you be willing to sacrifice your safety, your business, your livelihood, your savings, your family, your life?  The earliest followers of Jesus were (Acts 7, 1 Peter 2:19ff).

This brings us to the fifth quality that will guarantee spiritual effectiveness and fruitfulness: godliness.  To be godly is to display reverence for God.  I think there are two aspects to having a reverent life.  The first is inward.  By inward godliness I mean a turn of mind, attitude, or disposition that is preoccupied with God.  This is a mindset or worldview that is centered in God and seeks to align thinking, emotions, and actions with what He has revealed in His word.  

The second aspect is outward.  Greg Beale has well said “What people revere, they resemble."  If we inwardly revere and worship God, we will outwardly come to resemble Him.  Godliness then is to be inwardly focused on Him and outwardly conforming to His likeness.

If you are starting to feel that developing this cluster of qualities is just too much to ask, let me say I agree with you!  This is not just hard; it is impossible without the empowering and transforming work of the Spirit of Jesus in your life.  Remember, Peter has written that we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  The resources we need are all at our disposal.  We just need to “…make every effort…” knowing that the Spirit will be at work in us to both will and work what He desires (Philippians 2:13).  We are not alone in our endeavor to thrive at the end of the end times.

 

1 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 156.

Peter's End Time Survival Guide: Knowledge and Self-Control

The Bible is clear that a great tsunami of apostasy will wash through the church in the last days.  More than that, we can expect tsunami after tsunami as the rapture draws closer.  Thankfully, in 2 Peter 1:5-8 we have instructions on how to not just survive but even thrive during these challenging days.

So far we have found in these verses that we are to reflect on the reality and riches of our salvation (2 Peter 1:3-5a).  Second we are to resolve to give energy and resources to pursuing spiritual growth (v. 5b).  Third, we are to make every effort to be a virtuous follower of Jesus which means we are to reflect the excellence of our Lord in all we do (v. 5c).  Right on the heels of these, Peter urges, even commands the pursuit of knowledge and self control (v. 6a).

But before looking at these closely let’s step back and look at the big picture.  Peter had urged his readers to work hard (make every effort) to add seven qualities to their saving faith (vv. 5-7).  What is the relationship between these qualities? Some understand these to be serially related.  That is, one must first add virtue to the foundation of faith, then move on to add knowledge, then move on to add self-control, etc.  However, more careful interpreters have spotted something else.  The better view is that Peter is using a rhetorical approach that was common in his time and his readers would have readily understood.  Peter, in their view, is not saying develop these things one at a time.  Rather he is saying that each of these are ingredients for the recipe to produce a dynamic, successful Christian life. 

Now I enjoy cooking. Just the other night I made Clam Chowder.  When I made it I did not first chop the onions and cook them, then chop the potatoes and cook them, then heat the cream, preparing and cooking each ingredient one at a time. No, I combined them, cooked them together and made Clam Chowder.  This is what Peter is doing.  All these seven qualities together make up the Christian life.  This is why in v. 8 he says “…if these qualities are yours and are increasing…”.  The effective and fruitful follower of Jesus is to have all these qualities and will be growing in all of them.

Another way to look at this is to imagine these seven qualities as a cluster of grapes.  The grapes don’t grow one at a time.  No, the whole cluster develops together.  Something similar is pictured here. 

Now let’s move on to the next two ingredients, knowledge and self-control. Knowledge involves acquiring information or developing an intellectual grasp of something. The particular knowledge in view is knowledge of all that God has revealed in His word.  As far as Peter was concerned followers of Jesus needed to be learning more and more about the Lord and what is in His word.  Yet this is not merely mentally cataloging events, dates, theology, etc.  When knowledge is present with virtue, self-control, and the rest of these qualities it is practical knowledge.  Someone who is growing in knowledge of this kind is becoming more and more discerning and more and more skilled in living the Christian life.

Self-control is the power to direct one’s own thoughts, emotions, and will.  Harnessed with knowledge and virtue, self-control enables the end-times followers of Jesus to think, feel, and do what is righteous and good. One commentator sums this up well.  He writes, “Where virtue, guided by knowledge, disciplines desire and makes it the servant instead of the master of life, self-control may be said to supplement faith.”1

 

1 D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1989), 53. who quotes Barnett.

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