Chapter 2 is a big chunk of text, so we split it up over two sermons. Thematically, we are continuing right where Todd left off last week. In case this is your first message in the series, we’ll start with some context of 2 Peter, and a short recap of the message last week before jumping in to our text. This is a letter written to all Christians by the apostle Peter. This is not a situational letter written to specific people in a specific situation. The scriptures here speak to a spiritual truth that was evident in the first century and continues to be true today.
Throughout the ages, God has placed leaders and overseers to shepherd and guide his people. We are familiar with leaders like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, and David; God used these men to show the Israelites how to follow Him. You might also be familiar with Samson, King Saul and King Ahab. They are noteworthy for the exact opposite reason; they opposed God and followed what they saw as their best interest. In so doing, they brought about enormous trouble for the nation of Israel, and ultimately themselves.
Things hadn’t gotten any better by the first century. From the gospel of John: Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? ~ John 3:10-12
The pharisees were leading the nation poorly by not upholding God’s commands. And to make it worse they did it with confidence and pretension. Some wrong is easier to spot than others. Some false teachers will state from the outset their oppositions to the teachings of Jesus. However, there are some that will try to convince you they are following Jesus, more closely than you by the way. They will firmly state that it is YOU that has it wrong, and that in order to better understand what God actually meant, you need to listen to them, to their understanding.
Sounds pretty familiar if you know the story of the serpent in the garden. “Did God actually say…”?
Todd said last week, the common thread among false teaching is that is chips away at the deity of Christ.
In studying today’s text, I hope we come away with two distinct potential paths in our spiritual life
To seek God means to orient one’s life toward him in active faith and obedience, to be diligent in fulfilling His commands, to oppose idolatry, and to support and participate in his worship.
The converse is to forsake God, which includes apostasy and idolatry, the neglect and abuse of his church and his institutions, despising the words of his prophets.
Leaders are held to a high standard. This is repeated many times in scripture. Part of the calling of a teacher is to speak something more important and impactful than their own words and interpretations, but to speak the word of the Lord. I don’t mean a new word, a new revelation. But to speak boldly and confidently that THIS is the truth, THIS is what God has for us. This morning we will explore what it looks like to forsake him, the warnings Peter gives us about people who do, and how we might instead seek him and lead others well.
2 Peter 2:12-22
12 But these [false teachers], 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, 13a suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.
- Leaders have a responsibility to teach faithfully. When that obligation is neglected, the result is not neutral.
- The things they do will brought upon themselves. They will be destroyed like their false teaching destroys faith. They will reap the wrongdoing they brought upon their flock.
- Peter compares false teachers to animals that God gave us dominion over. Implies maybe they don’t have a personal relationship with God.
- An example of the kind of irrationality Peter was witness to: John 12:10-11 “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazurus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus”
- Absolutely shocking that they refused to change their minds in the face of objective facts. Instead, they seek to destroy the evidence of the deity of Jesus.
- Sin produces this irrational behavior
13b They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.
- The warning here is towards people who will claim to be disciples of Jesus, who are in amongst the church, even in leadership positions.
- Peter is specifically talking about teachers who “bring in destructive heresies”
- Normally when I sin, I do so in secret. If I craft a lie, I try to keep the audience as small as possible. This limits the number of people who can keep me honest.
- This kind of sin isn’t done in secret; it is out in the open. Peter comments on the reality we still see today.
- There are people who bring about a “new gospel” or false doctrine, and they do so loudly and proudly. They share their own interpretations
- V. 13 “Feast with you”, likely a reference to the Lord’s supper. They think they share our faith, and posture as Christians to the point of partaking the sacraments.”
- V. 14 14 “they have hearts trained in greed”. No biblical prophecy came about because a man wanted to prophesy, similarly said in 2 Pet. 1:21 False prophets have motives deeply rooted in greed and selfish ambition.
Two weeks ago: 2 Pet. 1:20-21 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 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.”
Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
- Accursed children here are the kings and leaders of Israel whose spiritual descendants will now plague his Church.
- Numbers 22: Balaam is a prophet known from Old and New Testament fame for disobeying God and dishonest gain, and was ultimately corrected by his own donkey.
- He used his status as a prophet, a man of God, to benefit himself.
- Even a prophet was corrected by a lowly creature like a donkey
- There is accountability even with a man of God.
- The nation of Israel has a long history of leaders taking them in the wrong direction, and mankind is still born in sin. Why do we expect it to change?
- What does this all mean? What does it actually look like? Remember the words of the serpent “did God actually say?”
- There are false teachers who will look you in the eye and say that the bible doesn’t mean what it says.
- They might tell you a specific earthly desire you have is not a sin.
- They know the truth because of their superior intelligence.
- They might convince you it’s because they received a word from God.
- God does not contradict himself.
- Every time Todd or Greg or myself stands up here to teach, the word of God is at the center. We don’t come up with an agenda of what we want to talk about. We examine the word of God and let it take us where it goes.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 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. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
- Sensual passions of the flesh are attractive! But a waterless spring promises refreshment and delivers none
- It’s incredibly difficult to remove the passion for the world, even when we know it doesn’t satiate us. Instead, it needs to be replaced.
- Instead, we should pay close attention to the constant reminders of the things of God, and not false teachings that please our earthly desires.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
- There is a reason false teachers continue be effective. Sometimes we want the heresy.
- The truth can be uncomfortable, such as the idea that we are unable to save ourselves. That there are dreams and desires God wants us to give up on. That our earthly accomplishments don’t mean anything.
- That our nice, but non-believing family members are eternally doomed.
- Todd said a couple weeks ago that Jesus didn’t die so we could continue living exactly how we want to live.
- So, when someone teaches that we can have it all, the financial security, the career goals and the white picket fence, it feels good.
- But God has so much more for us, he wants to take us on a vacation to the beach.
20 For 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. 21 For 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. 22 What 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.”
- We are promised freedom, but our sin enslaves and entangles.
- We can understand this to be about the Christians who are drawn astray as well as the teachers themselves.
- Isn’t a little bit of Jesus better than none?
- The knowledge of God gives more accountability before him. Their experiences in the Christian life, their exposure to the text and to biblically sound teaching and relationships with other Christians raise the bar of what is expected.
- This is important because as individual followers of Jesus, we are accountable to what has been revealed to us. We have no excuses; we need to seek and treasure the truth!
- And here we arrive at our earlier point, the choice we are given is to seek or to forsake. There is no such thing as a middle ground. We cannot learn just enough, and then stop or turn away. We need to continue to orient our lives towards him, and to support and participate in his worship.
If we fall in love with God’s word, we recognize that it is a powerful and bright shining light leading us in the truth. Our worldly desires get dimmer not by abstaining from them, but by replacing them with a desire for God. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” ~ James 4:8 It sounds easy, but do you believe scripture or not? Look for him, talk with him. Make time for him.
False teachers are not just a thing of the past. Just because someone is in leadership does not write them a blank check to say whatever and lead however they want to. Do your homework, grow your personal relationship with him so you can identify heresy when you see it. Conversely, this does not give us believers a blank check to refuse to submit to the leaders God has placed us under. There is a balance, but we are unable to pick out the counterfeit unless we diligently study the real thing.
Lastly, everyone has a unique calling before the lord. I ask that you would prayerfully consider what your purpose is. Maybe it is to be the spiritual leader of your family. Maybe you have been called to lead people to Christ in your workplace or apartment complex.
There is no middle ground. We either seek God or we forsake him. Jesus died for his church, and only a false teacher would tell us we can neglect it.
While I am challenging the congregation with this, I am equally challenged by these questions.
Are you all in for Jesus, are you actively seeking him?
Your understanding of who God is should inform every part of your life.
Be on your guard; the enemy wants nothing more to distract you with a false understanding of who God is. Without a firm foundation we are susceptible to false teaching.
Does your life reflect a true image of Jesus? Make sure you are teaching others properly; the consequences are severe. Ask God to show you the truth, even if it is hard to hear.