Friday, March 27, 2015

To De-Value Grace ...

In our last study, Peter began enumerating the degeneration that occurs, even within a “spiritual leader” when once the concept of “self” is introduced into the process of our salvation.  It begins with pride; perhaps pride in the idea that “we” alone have found some nugget of truth in an interpretation of prophecy or scripture, and therefore all others are by definition … wrong.  Instead of attributing the cost of our salvation to Jesus Christ alone, we begin to assume that our own efforts matter as well.  We begin to think that perhaps through study and dedication, we can fix some portion of ourselves, and simply leave the remainder that is broken to Christ.  Instead of success, we only prolong failure, but in the stubbornness of our pride, we cling to our ideas that “we” too, must have some measure of control in the process of our salvation.  Holding on to the value of self in our religion, we begin to tailor our worship services to be pleasing to us.  We begin to confine the notion of family to those only of blood or marital relations and when once marriage is discarded, those former soul-mates are cast to the winds.  None of these end-states were envisioned when once we started down the slippery slopes of self or pride.  Lucifer could not imagine killing God when he merely pondered the idea of loving himself instead of others, even if only for the briefest of time.  But degeneration is the nature of sin.
The insidious doctrine of Satan must not be wholly in error, or else it would be discovered and eliminated quickly.  So even the teachings of Satan must include some measure of truth.  For Christians, this measure of truth could rely upon the concept of forgiveness.  Forgiveness, is the Christian’s “get out of jail free” card.  There is an unlimited supply of forgiveness.  There are no limits to the sins it will cover, everything from the serial rape and murder of children, to little white lies.  Forgiveness erases it all.  Forgiveness allows us to be “saved” with a clean slate, a complete do-over, a white-out of the sins of our past.  Without it we could never begin a face to face relationship with God.  For whatever reason, God never seems to hold forgiveness back from us, whether we commit sin knowing full well in advance what we were doing, or just stumbling in on it by accident.
So Satan does not attempt to destroy the idea of forgiveness, instead he amplifies it.  He makes forgiveness the “king” of Christian doctrine and philosophy … to the exclusion of any further thoughts on the subject.  By leveraging forgiveness, we can effectively remain in our sins, content with “who” we are.  We can come to believe that “God understands our weaknesses” and therefore invented forgiveness in order to keep loving us.  We begin to tell ourselves, that what we do must actually be God’s fault because He made us this way.  So in reality forgiveness is something He owes us, in order to keep up His end of the justice equation.  Over time, we come to believe that forgiveness is automatic, we don’t need to ask for it every time, because God “knows our hearts” and provided forgiveness in advance for every deed we will ever do.  And at some point, we decide the value of forgiveness is just not that great, so whether God grants it or not, becomes much less important to us.  Apparently God wants us to “enjoy life” and has provided forgiveness as our Christian reset button when life comes to an end.
For those who have embraced the idea that “self” plays a role in our salvation process, it is VERY easy to fall into this thinking on the topic of forgiveness.  For having embraced the notion of “self” in salvation, our failure to find perfection, to avoid the desire for sin, goes away.  We find we want sin as much as we ever did.  No measure of self-discipline or self-control ever eliminates the desire to sin; at best it eliminates the actions of sin.  In our hearts, we remain with longing for the forbidden.  In our hearts, our lust consumes our thoughts, and we enact (if only in our minds) the object of sin over and over again.  This process repeats until at some point, our actions follow our desires, and down into sin we plunge.  Our guilt may drive us back to forgiveness, perhaps because some relative or friend still enlists God’s intervention on our behalf even though we no longer want Him ourselves.  Perhaps He gladly answers their prayers for us, since we keep telling Him “no”.  But forgiveness only wipes our slate clean.  It does not transform what we “want” to do again and again.
This is why Satan ONLY amplifies forgiveness.  He hopes that in our repeated failure and degeneration over time, we will come to a point where we no longer even care about it.  He hopes that the sins of the flesh will so overwhelm us; that the gratification of self will so consume us and warp our desires, that nothing will provide an allure to return to God and his path of self-denial (translate unhappiness).  And Satan is VERY successful at luring “backsliders” out of the church through this path.  He is even MORE successful creating hypocrites that remain in the pews, content to sin, and cast stones at others.  All of us denying the central core tenant of salvation that would free us from this course of perpetuated pain and slow torturous death.  The truth that “we” have NOTHING to do with our salvation, that Jesus Christ alone purchased us with His blood, and through our submission of our will to Him, He re-creates “new” desires in us, eliminating the sins we were once so bound to and enslaved by.  The power of transformation is LOST on those who continue to insert self into salvation.  This was Peter’s greatest fear.  And he wanted to make sure we all knew where it would lead.
So he begins in his second letter to the church in chapter 2 and verse 10 saying … “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.”  The men to which Peter refers are not just members of a church, or babes in the faith.  They are spiritual leaders, they are false teachers, they do not just commit these sins, they advocate them to others.  They assert their independence and their individuality and despise unity and conformity.  They misuse their unique perspective of Jesus to assert there is no other.  And they despise both correction, and transformation, as they have come to accept themselves for “who” they are.  The repeated failures of self to perfect them, have led them to the idea that perfection is simply not possible.  And since perfection is impossible, it must not be required.  They never for a second believe that perfection might be possible, if they gave up on the idea of having “self” achieve it.
Peter continues in verse 11 … “Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. [verse 12] But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;”  Peter is astounded at how far a corrupt spiritual leader can fall.  One who should know the truth and the power of transformation instead after relying upon self, offers criticism of things they do not understand at all.  Even fallen angels do not rail as these “brute beasts” of men do.  They march like cattle to the slaughter understanding not the effect of evil upon the soul and warping of the mind.  They lack transformation, and begin to de-value both forgiveness and grace, and in so doing they insure their destruction, running from the only source that would otherwise save them.
Peter continues in verse 13 … “And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;”  These false religious leaders are not timid, shy, or ashamed.  They are bold, arrogant, and desire to be the center of attention.  They insert themselves in the lives of believers.  They sin in heart and deed, and are “content” to do so.  Yet they feast with the saints, spreading their heresy, and hoping to have others join in their behavior as if in some way validating what they do.  But they remain a cancer on the body of Christ because they will not see past themselves.
Peter continues in verse 14 … “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:”  Here is one of the saddest warnings in all of scripture.  Having “eyes” full of adultery; literally everything we see inspires in us only the desire to gratify self.  It is not the banner ads of scantily clad women selling perfume or cars on the roadside that inspire lust in us.  It is our own natural inclination that does so.  It is not the preponderance of sex on TV, and in every form of media, that causes us to lust.  Our lust merely feeds on these things.  If they did not exist, we would find other ways to feed.  And in this counsel is laid base the NATURE OF ADDICTION.  Our eyes are so full of adultery, that we … “cannot cease from sin”.  Cannot.  Not “will not”.  We are unable to stop sinning, in mind, heart, or deed.  This is not about sin as some choice we make.  This is about sin being “who” we are.  This is about the core of us being the very thing that needs to be remade by Christ, lest we remain enslaved to this kind of thinking.
Sin is NOT something we free ourselves from.  Sin is NOT something we can cease from committing by simply not allowing ourselves to “actually” commit adultery.  Adultery happens repeatedly in our minds, in our thoughts, in our fantasies, before it happens in our flesh.  We sow the seeds of it long before we reap the harvest.  It is the desire to sin that must be altered, if the deeds that follow are to ever stop occurring.  If the desire remains in us to sin, we will sin.  And most unfortunately, those accursed children who have rejected the transformation that Jesus Christ longs to give us, are not content to keep their sins confined to their minds, hearts, and thoughts; they must find expression with another person.  They work to “beguile” unstable souls.  How many a pastor or counselor has taken advantage of the weakness of a supplicant struggling against the desire to sin, to commit that very sin with them?  How often has a spiritual leader used the lure of God, to attempt to lure another soul into actions neither should take?  These false teachers preach self-indulgence combined with forgiveness, and advocate abandon to selfish desires, instead of to Jesus Christ to be remade.
Peter continues in verse 15 … “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; [verse 16] But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.”  These spiritual leaders and false teachers have completely abandoned allowing Christ to remake them.  Instead they would use the supernatural powers of Satan in their ministry.  They crave money, fame, admiration, way more than they ever craved the humility of service found in the true ministry of Christ.  But God is not unaware of their actions and intentions.  He is not willing to abandon His sheep in His flock.  And He does intervene from time to time to supernaturally interfere when Satan attempts to use his own power to destroy the flock of God.
Peter continues beginning in verse 17 … “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. [verse 18] For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. [verse 19] While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”  These are “wells without water”.  They look like a place of refreshing in a dry desert, but they have NOTHING to offer, but further thirst.  These pastors, conference leaders, evangelists, or neighbors in the pew, can all TALK about salvation, but none have experienced it yet.  They speak with great swelling words of vanity, meaning they exalt their positions, their knowledge of scripture, their time with the Lord.  But none know what it means to really be saved, to really be made free from sin, any sin.  Their base desires remain within them, and are a constant focus of self-gratification on any level.  So they preach forgiveness and the liberty that comes with a clean slate, having no idea how to change the underlying desire for sin.  They are servants of corruption, inspiring others to join them in bondage to self, allowing none to escape the notion of “self” inserted in our salvation.
Peter concludes, starting in verse 20 … “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. [verse 21] For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. [verse 22] But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”  Again Peter introduces the concept that it IS possible to fall from grace.  Even spiritual leaders who perhaps at one time knew what it was like to be made free from the grip of sin, have instead of furthering their surrender to Christ, taken back a measure of “control”.  They have allowed the idea of “self” back into the process of salvation. 
Perhaps they reasoned that God would free them from the “big” sins, and they would work on the “little” ones.  Perhaps they reasoned that God would only free them from sins once or twice, not every time.  Perhaps they came to believe that it was never really God who freed them, but through their devotion and study, it was actually their own dedication that saw that sin go away.  It does not really matter how they came to deny the power of Jesus Christ in their original transformation, only that they did deny it.  It does not matter why they stopped surrendering their will to Jesus Christ, only that they did stop surrendering, trusting to self, and common sense, and will power, instead of to Christ alone.  Having tasted only briefly of the freedom of salvation, must be devastating when it is fully lost.  The end-state even a worse form of torture for them than never knowing it at all.  For now, they know it is possible, but no longer possible for them.  A dog returning to his vomit, the thing that should most repulse him – a pig returning to their own poo and mud that should most repulse any creature – yet both find “happiness” in this pit of despair.  More accurately, both are bound to seeing this pit of disgust, as a pinnacle to rise to.

This is the level of perversion that will occur in the mind of even a spiritual leader who relies upon self in the process of salvation.  They will not simply die alone in their sins, they will work avidly to have others join them.  They will not simply withdraw from the membership of the body of Christ, they will instead assert leadership in that body, and attempt to destroy from within what should have been preserved.  They will seek the company of saints, if only to corrupt them.  They will preach forgiveness because this is the part of the process they understand.  But they will never preach transformation because this is the part of the process that “self” keeps them from experiencing.  They will preach the need for “good works” but never understand the motives that would drive them.  They will preach adherence to the Law of God, but never understand how to be in harmony with that Law.  The best doctrines of Satan have a measure of truth within them.  The fostering of guilt within the church does nothing to purify it.  The knowledge of committing sin is not the same as a release from it. As long as “self” is allowed to be part of our thinking in salvation, we will continue to deny ourselves the ability of Jesus Christ to actually rid us of the desire to sin.
Those who would choose to believe in the natural “goodness” of mankind must examine the words and warnings of Peter and see where the degeneration of self leads … even in spiritual leaders.  We de-value grace when we assert self.  We de-value grace when we choose to rely upon forgiveness and never let Christ build upon that foundation, the transformation of who we are.  We de-value grace when we become “content” with “who” we are, instead of aspiring to allow Jesus Christ to remake us into “who” He intended we become.  There is so much more for us, than the clean slate we begin life with post forgiveness.  There is a life without the pain of self-serving sin.  There is a life no longer bound by eyes full of adultery.  There is a life where the idea of sinning no longer appeals to us.  There is a freedom and happiness found in loving others like Jesus loves others.  This is the life Peter wants us to find, through the transforming love of Christ.  And it was important to Peter, that we were not deceived into de-valuing the grace of our God.
And Peter had more yet to say …

Friday, March 20, 2015

To Discern Truth from Error ...

Peter is aware of his impending death.  He knows it will be coming soon, and so his first and only priority is to put the early church into remembrance of the truth and power of the Gospel.  In our prior study we note how Peter relays once again his own eye witness testimony of the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ.  Peter recalls hearing the voice of God the Father stating plainly for James, John, and himself in the holy mount that Jesus was his only son, in whom the Father was well pleased.  Scripture pointed unerringly to the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in Jesus Christ.  And lastly, Peter adds to all of these arguments the sure word of prophecy, which when inspired by God has only one target, only one fulfillment, that which is in Jesus Christ.  These things taken together are meant to be a proof, a surety of the gospel message.  This is not meant to validate Peter for his own sake, but to put the early church in remembrance that the transforming love of Jesus Christ impacts the life in the here and now.  The power of the Gospel is found in the removing our sins, not in allowing us to linger in them.  Forgiveness is not the ultimate goal.  It is a step on the path to reform, to re-creation, to a different nature that is not bound in the slavery of self-love, but made free to love others.
This is the key distinction about the Gospel message that Peter wishes for the early church to keep front and center in their thoughts … the love of Christ is transformative.  Through our daily submission of our will and our desires to Jesus Christ, He remakes the core of “who” we are into someone else.  The changes in our desires, lead us to behave differently.  Because we “want” different things, we begin to act in concert with our “new” desires, and find ourselves loving others as a natural state of being, instead of a forced one.  This transformation is the “evidence” of God being alive within us, and of our having “accepted” the Gospel message of hope against hope.  That I could be saved from who I am, is nearly beyond my comprehension.  That I could no longer even “want” to sin, is nearly beyond my greatest hope.  That this process is something Jesus Christ does for me, with only my consent to it, is a gift beyond my wildest dreams.  My deepest fear becomes allowing my arrogance or my pride or my stubborn will to interfere with it, or to fall from it.  Peter too, worried about the influence of self, in the process of salvation.  He knew that when any potential spiritual leader allowed “self” to enter the thinking of salvation, the entire process would be perverted.
So Peter begins in the last few verses of chapter one of his second letter to the church outlining counsel meant to keep believers from this error, as he begins in verse 20 saying … “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”  The great temptation of those who study scripture is to believe that “they alone” have discovered some truth that no-one else is aware of.  It then becomes “their burden” to preach and relay this message to others, as ONLY they can.  But this is nothing more than a submission to pride.  The intent of God in the revelations contained throughout ALL scripture, was to communicate with His people, with ALL of His people.  God does not purposefully cloud the meaning of scripture in order that only one reader “gets it”.  If He needed to speak to only one person, He would do so.  What the inspired text of God is intended for, is a revelation of Himself to ALL the people who might pick up that text and read.  That is not to say there is only one truth in a given passage or story.  But that is to say, that any real truth, will be discernable by more than one reader.
In our day, there are many who argue that scripture is not complete as we know it.  They argue that there are more volumes of works that “should” be a part of our Bibles; things like the gospel of Judas, or of Mary Magdalene.  Some of these additional works may disagree with the bulk of the Bible as it exists today.  Some may be entirely counterfeit.  It is hard to know if the book of Enoch should be included in our canon, as Jesus appears to make reference to it in one of his talks.  Yet for a book of Enoch to have endured, it would have had to be carried and transcribed by Noah through the flood – or perhaps re-written by Moses much later through prophetic revelation.  The intent of all this study about the completeness of the scripture is to cause doubt about what is written within it.  If the Bible is not complete, perhaps it is not accurate either.  But this misses the point Peter is here trying to make.  The Bible is not about limited understandings unique to a single person.  It is about general communications with enough information and truth so that any and every reader can know about the one and only true God, and His Son Jesus Christ, and their united desire to save mankind from himself and the evil that lies within him from loving himself.
If our God did not allow us to see enough of Himself in scripture, then none of us could ever make a truly informed decision of whether we wanted His love or not.  If scripture is inaccurate or incomplete then we do not have enough truth to make a real decision, and the entire plan of salvation becomes moot.  To think that Jesus Christ would come to this world, live and die for us, loving us to the maximum amount possible, showing what the true definition of loving others means; only then to have the record of Himself and His Father be distorted by omission or in-accuracy is senseless.  We may not have a record of every single event that has transpired throughout the history of God attempting to save mankind.  But we certainly have more than enough to see His Truth and make a decision based upon what we have read and experienced in our own lives.  The point of trusting God is doing so despite what we may lack in our lives.  To know we will be saved by Christ, in spite of the fact that we have been completely unable to save ourselves, takes trust.  Scripture provides enough information for us to make this choice, but it still remains a choice for us to make.
Peter is here telling the early church not to worry about some obscure text is some mountain cave, that only one person ever sees.  Instead the church should be able to rely on scriptures that are already in wide circulation, that are NOT intended to be hidden and used for private gain, but intended to be shared widely so that all might gain from them.  He continues in verse 21 … “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  Peter reminds everyone that the Holy Spirit has been alive and working towards our salvation since long ago.  It is not just since the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit has been working in concert to save us.  He has been inspiring men to write down truth long before, and since, the days of Peter.  He will continue to inspire until the work is completed.  He acts as a mechanism in the transformation of men from our base selves to the holy versions we were intended to be.  He interacts with our will.  He transforms our prayers so that they might present before a perfect God better than our feeble words and selfish intentions would otherwise display.
Peter in this passage is not just affirming the truth of scripture past.  He is also affirming the mechanism for prophecy that is current in his own day.  John’s revelations of Jesus Christ are inspired and relayed to him through the mechanism of the Holy Spirit.  Peter’s own foreknowledge of his impending death is relayed to him through the Holy Spirit.  The purpose behind this knowledge was not to scare or frighten, but as revealed in this letter, it was to focus his priorities with the time he has left on the most important thing in his life … reaching the early church with the truth.  Peter is here affirming once again that any true prophecy, or prophet is moved by the Holy Spirit.
But Peter was equally aware that for every truth, Satan must introduce a counterfeit.  He continues his thoughts in chapter two of his first letter beginning in verse one saying … “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”  Here is where the danger and perversion of introducing “self” into the process of salvation reaps its harvest.  The damnable heresies introduced by false teachers fall into a single line of thinking … a denial of the transformation the Lord is responsible for.  Instead these false teachers begin to teach concepts like “balance”, and “doing your best”, and “just say no to sin”.  Any concept that teaches us that “we” have some measure of “control” in the process of our salvation denies that the Lord does all the work for us.  In so doing, we take away from God, the work He is supposed to perform, and put that burden on our own failing shoulders, with results that should have been predictable.
The swift destruction that follows is certain and completely predictable, though when it comes, it always seems to surprise its victims.  As we embrace the evil of self-love, we cause pain, destruction, and death to ourselves, to those who love us, to those who encounter us.  We send out ripples of pain that travel uninterrupted through our lives and those we encounter.  It is unavoidable when self-love is embraced.  When we rely upon self in any way for our own salvation and transformation we fail.  There is no “balance” in our salvation and re-creation, it is entirely a one-way street.  The work of saving us is done by Jesus Christ and He alone.  We do nothing but get out of His way.  We allow Him to save us, and trust that He will save us.  When we attempt to take the reins and fix some “slight” problem in ourselves by force of will, or self-denial, we only delay the transformation that would otherwise completely eliminate even the desire for that thing.  It is the introduction of self into our process of salvation that is the common denominator in false teachers who arise in the church.
It is the subtle doctrine of Satan they introduce into the heart of Christianity itself … to rely upon our common sense, and will to decide our salvation and fate.  To introduce the idea that “we” have some measure of control which we must exert, and then wait for God to make up the difference, is the heresy that acts against a real transformative experience that would have us living salvation instead of theorizing about it.  The introduction of self into our thinking about salvation, quickly begins to infect our ideas about worship as well.  The “worship service” becomes something we intend to provide “us” a blessing.  We tailor the music, format, and content to “feed us”.  We intend to reap emotional highs, and good feelings from our worship services.  In so doing we completely forget that true worship is offering service “to others”.  We forget that we most resemble our God when we are “loving others”, or meeting their needs, or getting out of our confining buildings and confining wardrobes of finery, in order to REALLY minister to someone in need, often in dirty places, that are not so attractive as church pews, in air-conditioned buildings, only once a week for a few hours.
Inserting “self” into Christianity denies us our real focus of reaching others, ministering to their needs ahead of our own, sacrificing what we have because the needs of someone else means more to US than we do.  Inserting “self” into Christianity denies us our ideas of family.  We restrict our notions of family to those who relate by blood, or marital contract.  After this the line is drawn in the sand, all others become strangers.  If we removed the notion of self from salvation, we would see that each and every other life is as precious, beautiful and meaningful as our own.  Our notions of family would extend freely to those in the church pews beside us, but would grow within us, until the homeless person becomes so important to us, that we can pass them by no longer.  This is what it means to be transformed to love others like Christ loved others.  Can you imagine Jesus passing by the homeless man, simply because he is mentally ill, and homeless?  No the Lord of Love does not pass by those in need, He meets their needs, offering healing, and hope.  As His representatives, can we do any less?  It is the introduction of the perversion of “self” into our salvation that would allow us to remain apathetic.
Peter continues in verse 2 … “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. [verse 3] And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”  When once the notion of self is embraced, a degenerative addiction is the unavoidable path it must travel.  It begins with the idea that we alone understand the scripture.  It ends with indulging ourselves to the point where we would think nothing of taking offerings from other believers and expending them on ourselves.  I can drive the Rolls Royce, and live in my mansion here on earth, because I have figured out how to profit from running a “ministry”.  But the destruction to my soul from embracing self-love is guaranteed, and it will not linger long.  I will indulge myself in what I consume, how I live, and my choices will impact and degrade my health.  I will make enemies as my need to please me, exceeds my desire to see anything of value come to you.  My enemies will rejoice when I fall, and take pleasure in my destruction.  They will judge me rightly that I am no real servant of the Most High, but instead through the introduction of self into my salvation, I am become a servant of filthy lucre, and the father of lies behind it.  This is the fate of those who would deny the Lord purchases their salvation for them.
Peter concludes these ideas of false teachers beginning in verse 4 … “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; [verse 5] And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; [verse 6] And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; [verse 7] And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: [verse 8] (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) [verse 9] The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:”.
The destiny of those who would save themselves is enumerated above.  When once trust was broken with God in heaven, when the angels decided to trust themselves and their own common sense above the word of the Most High, they embarked upon a path of self-destruction and self-addiction and were cast out of heaven above.  The “hell” of separation from God was to be their continued fate, cut off from the source of all love.  When the old world had reached its zenith in embracing self-love, only Noah would be willing to be saved.  When Sodom and Gomorrah had reached their zenith in self-love, only Lot would continue to be grieved at the level of their corruption, and would be willing to be saved.  Even his wife would turn back to the evil that had captured her heart and lose her life becoming a pillar of salt.  Only those who would trust in God instead of themselves would be saved.  Those who refused to trust in God would not be spared.
The essential issue that was founded in the conflict in heaven has not lost any urgency here on earth even 4,000+ years later in the time of Peter, or 6,000+ years in our own day.  Do we rely upon self?  Do we trust in ourselves, and in our will, and in our common sense?  Or do we trust in God, despite what we “know”, or what we “see”, or what we “believe” to be true?  The destiny of false prophets of old, was to be the same as false teachers who were already entering the early Christian church.  When once the ideas of “self” are introduced into the process of salvation, they pervert it until it consumes them in evil.  The power of the gospel is found in the absence of self.  The power of transformative love of Jesus Christ, is that re-creates in us “new” desires to love others instead of loving ourselves.  It is this transformation that carries weight and meaning in our day to day lives, not in some distant future one.  This is what Peter would have the early church remember.  This is what he would spend what little time left he had on planet earth worried about accomplishing.  Peter had the foreknowledge of the ending of his life, and it was in these passage he chose to spend his time and energies.
To discern truth from error was important to Peter.  To keep the church engaged in the transformation that Jesus Christ brings was the most important thing in his mind, and with his time left.  Might we take his example and begin to understand why it meant so much to him?  And the counsel of Peter was far from over …

Friday, March 13, 2015

To Know What Is Coming ...

Peter is concerned for the state of the early church.  He has opened his second letter and introduced the idea that following the path of Grace requires daily renewal, that to hold back any part of ourselves from God introduces the possibility of a fall from grace.  While our God longs to save us from ourselves, He cannot force Himself upon us and still call it love.  Peter is concerned, for he can see the early warning signs of those who would deny the power of the gospel.  Forgiveness being so easy, and reform looking so difficult, could the church decay into just another ideology with flowery words, and no real meaning to them?  Perhaps his concern is amplified, because while he is not thought of as a prophet, yet Peter reveals he knows what is to come.  And to make his point, and offer counsel to the church, he reveals to us what he already knows about the future in his own day.
Peter begins in chapter 1 of His second letter starting in verse 12 … “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.”  Peter is aware that he has shared the truth of the gospel before with those to whom he writes.  And he even realizes that what he says now could be seen as ‘nagging’ or repeating himself again and again.  But he is compelled to say it once more.  To have believers “established” in the “present” truth must supersede all other concerns about how he might be perceived by those he offers counsel to.  They must remember that the gospel is “present” truth.  The term present does not refer to immediacy of the Lord’s return, but to the immediacy of the Lord’s ability to save us from our slavery to self, and bid us entry into the Kingdom of God – which Christ had said was “already” come.  For truth to be “present” it must be here and now, in our reality, in our day-to-day.  The gospel is not some distant future message of hope, it is a present message meant for us now.  No matter how it looks, or how often he must repeat it, Peter will remind us and his readers of this fact.
He then continues in verse 13 … “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; [verse 14] Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.”  Peter is going to die.  He will be killed.  He will be crucified by the Romans for his passion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  At his own request he will be hung upside down thinking it too great an honor to die exactly as his Lord did.  And ALL of this he has been shown AHEAD of it happening to him.  As long as Peter occupies his body in this world, that is to say his tabernacle, he will consider it his duty to remind us of the present truth of our gospel.  His concern and desire for us compounded by the imminent knowledge of his death, He must remind us once again.  Notice that knowledge of his death is not something he rebels against.  He does not ask for prayer to change the fate he will suffer.  He does not beg the Lord to extend his life in this world.  Instead Peter has reached such an absolute point of trust in Jesus, that if Jesus says it is time to die, Peter is OK with that.  The vision of Peter’s physical fate is not offered to him to scare him, but instead to remove all fear from him when it occurs.  Peter can meet his end boldly, and preach Jesus Christ boldly throughout his coming ordeal, for his death is known by himself and His Lord.
Peter then understands, SO much better than we do, our earthly existence, no matter how long or short it is, is nothing in comparison with our larger destiny.  Our lives, our existence, are meant to be eternal in a place where death, pain, and slavery to self, exist no more.  We all fear for our lives.  We do everything we can to extend them.  Peter did to.  But despite our reservation and reluctance to accept it, death comes to us all.  Peter could accept his own pending demise, not because he wanted to die, but because he wanted to live – like our God intended that he live.  He no longer wished to be bound to the shackles of this world, but instead be free to be wholly remade, including in the tabernacle of his body, the way the Lord always intended.  His only regret now, his only remaining concern, is that the church does NOT forget, the source of love and salvation they have been introduced to.  The foreknowledge of his death has helped Peter get his priorities in order, and laser focused.  Peter will soon sleep the sleep of death until his Lord returns, the centuries between himself and us are a blink of an eye to him.
Peter continues in verse 15 … “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. [verse 16] For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  The foreknowledge of his demise, causes Peter to want to make sure the church will have certainty once he has gone and is deceased.  Peter does not intend to accomplish this reminder after he is gone, by returning as a ghost or spirit.  There is no opportunity for Peter to continue to testify to the church once he is dead and gone.  He knows this.  There is no consciousness after the grave, until the day of resurrection.  So whatever Peter is going to say, he must say now.  Peter is not looking for believers to repeat the mistakes of Saul and attempt to conjure what will only be a demon in human form after he is gone.  Peter instead will say what he has to say now, while he is alive and able to say it.  When he is dead, no more will follow from him.
He reminds the church that the gospel is NOT a set of wisely devised lies, and a set of tall-tales, or fairy tales, or a story of moral interpretation and not a real one.  Jesus Christ was a real man, of that not even Atheists question.  But for those who never met Him, for those who never looked into the eyes of God made man incarnate, there may be a lingering doubt if Jesus was truly more than a man.  Peter stands as a personal witness, one of many, who can personally attest to the “power” of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Peter can attest personally to the “majesty” of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The power of our Lord, was not in His armies, for He had none.  So Peter was not describing the greatest military leader of all time.  Military and political power belonged to others.  The Power of our Lord, was in his ability to love us.  Through that love He was able to heal what choice, sin, inheritance, and the malice of others had broken in us.  He cast out demons, whose power exceeded our own will and allowed them to inhabit their victims.  But their supernatural power was NO match for the power of Love.  He healed the lame and blind, not just straightening what was crooked, but recreating what was missing.  In the same way, He frees us from our brokenness in sin.
The Majesty of our Lord, was not defined in His earthy kingship, for He had no crown other than the one made of thorns thrust upon His head.  He had no robes of state other than the ones the Romans used to mock Him with.  He owned no gold.  He owned no lands, not even a single house.  He was homeless His entire adult life.  He accepted no earthy inheritance from his family.  Instead He gave everything He owned to the poor, the downtrodden, the less fortunate, and to anyone He saw in need.  He not only kept a bag (which Judas held) for the poor with means of coin in it, He gave them the physical, mental, and spiritual healing they needed so desperately more than that.  His majesty would not be defined in traditional terms, but to Peter and ALL those who met our Lord, His majesty exceeded any other king that had ever, or would ever rise to power.  The church needed to remember this.
Peter continues in verse 17 … “For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. [verse 18] And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”  At the baptism of Jesus, the voice from God the Father was heard as the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove.  Andrew and John were there to see this, Peter was not.  But Peter was present at the end of the ministry of Christ where in the mount of Olives, Christ was transfigured as He communed with Moses and Elijah and received divine strength to uphold Him for the horror that was to come.  It was at this place, where Peter heard for himself, that affirmation that God the Father said of His only beloved Son.  Peter was an eye-witness to the voice of God the Father with respect to Jesus Christ, His only Son.
This was the ultimate witness to the divinity of Christ, that is an affirmation by His Father God.  God would not have done this, for just anybody.  Peter knew that.  He knew this could be done for only one, for only the Messiah.  And he Peter, had seen it, had heard it, had experienced it in the here and now as one who was there.  It was more than just a vision, more than just a dream, it was a real world experience in 3D and with every sense filled to capacity.  It does not get more real than that.  For Peter it does not get more certain than that.  This is the testimony he is trying to convey to the early church.  This gospel is real.  Jesus Christ is real.  And He is really the Son of God.  Jesus is not just a good man, a good Rabbi, a good teacher, or an accurate prophet.  Jesus Christ is not just a healer with power blessed by God.  He is the Son of God, as God Himself has testified to audibly, for the benefit of Peter, James, and John.  This is not even some delusion Peter might have concocted on his own, there were 2 other witnesses there for the same event.  This is the certainty Peter wants to convey before the foreknowledge of his own death catches up with him.
 Peter then moves father in verse 19 … “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:”  Peter now adds to the already heavy weight of his impassioned argument, to all that he has seen and bore witness to, he adds a “more sure word of prophecy”.  This is not only a reference to all the men of old who foretold the coming of the Messiah, since the first promise of Him that Moses recorded of the Genesis experience between Christ and Adam and Eve.  It is also a reference to the contemporary servants of Jesus Christ alive in the days of Peter and in the early church.  Jesus Christ had offered prophecy and foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple within it.  As such not a single Christian died in that horrific Roman siege.  Instead, when they saw the signs, they did not return to their homes to gather supplies, but left immediately and were gone with the Roman legions arrived.
John too, would now add his own Revelations of Jesus Christ, to the growing volumes of prophecy in guiding the early church.  Peter was confident that all prophecies inspired of God, would NOT lead away from Jesus Christ, but instead would lead to Jesus Christ.  Peter was absolutely certain of this.  The Truth of Jesus Christ would be a consistent truth, and would find no other interpretation, or alternative path to God.  The Father had given us His Son, it was everything He had to give, there would be no greater gift He could offer.  And it would be the only means by which we could be remade and come back into the presence of our God.  Peter knew he was worshipping the right God, and the only God.  Peter knew His Son was His only Son, and Peter would stipulate that all true prophecy could only have one author, therefore only have one outcome.  There would be no prophecies inspired by God that would point to Mohammed, or Buddha, or any other purported deity.  The only prophecies inspired by God would always and only point to Jesus Christ.
But Peter here too offers us a glimpse of what the goal of the gospel is to be in our lives … ‘until the day star arise in our hearts’.  The goal of prophecy and of accepting the gospel, is not to make us scholars in the Word.  We are not to be oracles of the future where men come to gain advice of how to obtain their next desire.  We are to allow prophecy and the acceptance of the gospel, to enable Jesus Christ the day star, to arise in our hearts.  We are to live the messages of prophecy.  We are to live the love of the gospel.  We are to reflect Jesus Christ as the source of light in our lives, not believe we have become the source of its origin.  To become like Jesus, because we allow Jesus to remake us to love others like God loves others is the entire point of both the gospel and the sure word of prophecy.  Any other use or goal is meaningless.
Peter does not attempt to use the knowledge of his own death to alter that outcome.  He does not beg God to change it.  Instead he uses his foreknowledge to remind and reinforce in the minds of his readers, the importance of living the salvation experience.  He reminds them at risk of looking like an old man who cannot stop repeating himself, that this gospel is the most important thing on planet earth.  It is more important than life and death, even when that life and death is your own.  Many of his readers will die in Roman stadiums to the blood thirsty cheers of the crowd and the roar of lions starved into a demonic rage.  They will face this fate singing hymns of praise to Jesus Christ.  They will die like sheep following their shepherd, not because they do not value life, but because they value the life their Lord intends for them far more.  Peter’s example will be remembered when they face their own horrific end.  Peter’s foreknowledge of what would happen to him, did not deter him from the gospel, instead it deepened him in the gospel.  His impassioned pleas to the Romans who would put him to death, carried even more weight because he knew the Truth of Jesus Christ, and because he trusted both his life and his death into the hands of Jesus Christ.
Peter knew he would die.  In your own heart, you know you will to.  Peter hoped for the Lord return before he died, as do you.  But Peter met his end, with the certainty of the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That Truth caused Peter to live every moment before his death with the priority of the gospel as front and center.  Will we do the same?  Can we learn to re-measure the quality of our lives not by how long they last, but by how much love we show to others before they end?  Can we allow Christ to so remake us, that every moment is a brand new opportunity to do something for someone else?  It is in showing love to others that we most resemble our Lord.  To live this way, is to truly live.  When once we embrace this path, our death will only be a brief interruption in a lifestyle we will carry into a perfect world, where all lingering chains and weakness will once and for all be removed.  In that world, what we started here by loving others, will be amplified by the perfection He will have completed in us.  In that world, our experience will be something we can hardly imagine in this one.  This was the goal of prophecy, and of the gospel, to see us live a life like this, that begins in the here and the now, and sees only a completion in the next one.
And Peter had more yet to say …

Friday, March 6, 2015

To Fall From Grace ...

The second letter from Peter to the Church does not target a particular region, or area.  It is a general letter intended for as wide a distribution as possible.  The contents of this letter were so important to Peter he feels compelled to write it, and is purposeful about not addressing to a particular city, region, or area, so that any reader will believe and understand it is intended for them.  In this way, Peter leaves us a legacy where what he and his compatriots penned nearly 2000 years ago stands as intended just for me, and just for you.  The tone of this letter is not meant to dishearten the early church, but there is no mistake that this letter carries a warning to those who have heard the gospel and accepted it.  The Revelations of John outline a steady degradation within the church, a steady decline from a state of purity, until it is so corrupted it is hardly distinguishable from death itself.  This is not a transition to be taken lightly.  And whether in concert with John, or merely through independent observation, Peter has begun to see the decline and wants to put a stop to it before it becomes worse.
The war between good and evil has changed.  The old church, that is the faith introduced by Abraham and passed down through the bloodlines and traditions of the Jewish people, is no longer the chief threat to the existence of evil in the world.  The coming of the Messiah has introduced a new threat, a much greater threat to Satan than any he has faced before.  Whereas the Jewish people tended to isolate themselves from the nations around them, and kept the process of salvation largely internal; the early Christian church had a completely opposite response.  The early Christian church was spreading across borders, nations, races, and cultures like a wild fire that will not be stopped.  Pagan resistance was futile at best, when competing with the truth and power of the gospel of salvation from the slavery of self.  The traditional Jewish faith, rich in culture and scripture, lacked the love for others the Christians through the power of Christ, had brought to the table.  In fact, there was some early confusion about whether the early Christian church was significantly different than the traditional Jewish faith, as both held to the same set of scriptural writings, general ideas about Sabbath rest, and importance of living righteously.
But the Jewish faith, through its rejection of the cornerstone, had lost its connection to the source of Love, and in so doing represented only a set of traditions and ideology without a real transformative power to literally change the lives of its subscribers.  Satan no longer needed to focus his energies on those of the Jewish faith, unless only to enlist them to his cause of stamping out the Christian heresy that was polluting their ancient systems and power structures.  But now, Satan would have to combat Christianity with new methods.  He could not meet it head on with lies for it would be easy to detect them.  But to raise up a counter insurgency, to cause followers of Christ to begin to alter their goals and ideas from within the church, might lead to its downfall.  At a minimum he might begin to see the church come to deny its own link to the transformative power of Love, and lose its ability to impact the world around it.  That in itself would be his “win”.  To make the church of no effect, at least keeps it from growing and leaves him able to “contain” the problem.
And as you look around the church today, no matter what the denomination you ascribe to, you find the war leaning on the side of Satan’s tactics.  There is no singular Christian denomination today who carries the universal power of transformative love with it into the world.  Like our spiritual forefathers, the Jewish Pharisees, we have a rich tradition of scriptural interpretation and practices, and a minimal understanding of what it truly means to love others more than ourselves.  In today’s churches we preach “balance”.  We teach “give and take”.  We do not aspire to give ALL of ourselves, merely “more” of ourselves.  We continue to espouse the value of “good works” but have denied ourselves the transformation of heart that would make “good works” a natural part of who we are.  Instead we erect barriers between ourselves and other Christians who are less enlightened doctrinally than we.  And we tend to universally lean on forgiveness for our misdeeds (which are many), than on reform of heart that would lead us away from committing them in the first place.
This situation did not begin with us, it is merely reached an unprecedented level of success with us.  Peter was around when the war was still in its infancy within the church.  And what he saw in the trends of the people inspired him to write this second letter.  He opens in verse one greeting as follows: … “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: [verse 2] Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,”  His greeting is short and to the point.  He identified who he is, Simon Peter.  His role, an Apostle of Jesus Christ in this instance.  For the purposes of what he will write, he wants his readers to know he was an eyewitness to the power of Jesus to transform lives; his own life was one story of total transformation.  Then he identifies his intended readers, “to them that have obtained like precious faith”.  Peter does not care about “how” a person comes to believe in following Jesus, only that they have come to that place.
In our modern versions of Christianity, we commonly ask believers to be re-baptized as they move from one denomination to another, seemingly to imply their understanding of the “truth” was not as good in the last place they worshipped.  But in common thinking, or common deception, we have come to regard “truth” as the interpretation of doctrine, instead of “The Truth” that is ONLY found in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and a personal encounter with Him.  So in our pride and in our arrogance, we cast dispersions on “how” a person comes to Christ, if it is not up to our high standards about the methods “we” employ.  An un-repentant sex-drugs-&-rock-n-roll youth, who attends a “rock” concert only to discover the singers have found Christ, and through their music and personal testimony, they witness about what Christ can do for you; can find conversion in this place.  So a former slave of Satan is brought to Jesus at what we ridicule as a hard rock concert, and we “discount” his having obtained a like and precious faith, because it happened at a venue we do not support.  It is we who are in error.  The new convert is the one standing on holy ground with his Truth, and his Lord.
Next Peter explains why casting dispersions on “how” a person comes to know Jesus Christ is utterly wrong to do.  For he then explains how ALL of us find this faith … “THROUGH the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ”.  We do not “find” our faith because we stumble across it by accident.  We do not “find” our faith because we were worthy, or searching, or could somehow “earn” its discovery.  In point of fact, our faith is a “gift” of the righteousness of our God, not us.  It is something He gives us because He is worthy, not because we are.  So to cast dispersions or ridicule on “how” someone finds Christ, is to insult the Author of ALL faith.
Lastly Peter summarizes his entire second letter in a singular statement about what the goal of the pure Christian church is … “Grace and Peace be multiplied unto you” … and how will this occur? … “through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ”.  The knowledge to which Peter refers, is not a thorough reading of every text recorded in the Bible.  He is not discounting the value of reading and studying scripture, but without a personal application as led by Jesus Christ Himself, in your life; the reading can lead you to a false sense of Pharisaical superiority that does not truly love others.  The knowledge of God and of Christ can be most keenly experienced as we learn to love others like our God loves others.  This experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ and of God, is what Peter points his readers to.  It is “how” both Grace and Peace will be multiplied among them.
Peter then quickly gets in to the meat of his letter, as the urgency of its themes are overwhelming him, he continues in verse 3 … “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”  We are not saved by our deeds, our intentions, or the strength of our characters; we are saved by “His divine power”.  It is NOT a partnership where we bring to the table some of our excellent character traits and then add them to what Jesus brings, or makes up for in us.  Instead His divine power has given unto us “ALL things that pertain unto Life and Godliness”.  We bring nothing but our own brokenness.  Jesus Christ brings everything we will ever need or want with Him, to put in us.  As we come to “know” Jesus through the transformative power of His love, we find we are transformed ourselves into His image of glory (serving others) and virtue (a desire away from our natural state of sin).  Our part is to submit ourselves to Him, rather than continue to believe “we” can “help” with our own salvation.  He does it all for us and in us, all we do, is let Him.
Peter continues in verse 4 … “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  Here it is folks, we are given “exceeding great” and “precious” promises.  What salvation brings into the transformed life is not inconsequential, it is life altering.  The power of the gospel is not muted in the person who truly experiences a freedom from former sin.  Peter knows how much joy having Jesus break the chains of sin in his own life can be, and he values that promise as it was intended.  For the results he outlines are stark in that we “might be partakers of the divine nature”.  Think about that one for a second; you and I might be partakers of the “divine” nature of our God.  This does not mean we become God, or some smaller/lessor version of our God, but instead that we become “like” our God in how we love others.  We can be so transformed by the Love of Christ, that we love like He loves.  In so doing we become partakers of His divine nature. 
Then as if we needed the contrast, Peter outlines what the opposite of a divine nature is and in fact what we have been made free from, escaping … “the corruption that is in the world through lust”.  Corruption is not an end-state, it is rather a degenerative condition.  Corruption does not reach some lower boundary and just stop, it keeps falling, lower and lower, no matter how bad we think we are.  Corruption is fed by lust.  We want!  We must have!  We need!  We crave the things we are enslaved to, like a hard core heroin addict craves his next fix.  Oh sure, there are those who have never even tried an illegal drug, but they are every bit as enslaved to their next sexual conquest, or their next rung on the corporate ladder of success, or making their next million or billion dollars.  There are those who crave success for their children in academics, or sports, or any other level of achievement – living vicariously through the success of their children or families.  Lust has no specific venue for expression.  It can mask as greed, or desire, or envy.  Its only chief characteristic is that it feeds our “ego”.  It is formed in the basis of “self” thinking, and the needs of “others” are always secondary to the needs of “me”.  It is from this addiction, that we are to be made free by the power of Christ, and as His gift to us.
Peter then describes the life cycle of salvation in his own experience.  He lists a series of characteristics about himself that the transforming power of Christ has brought, and he encourages us, his readers, to allow Christ to do the same in our lives as he continues in verse 5 … “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; [verse 6] And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; [verse 7] And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”  For us to give all diligence is for us not to become weary in surrendering to Jesus Christ every-day.  The evil of self must be brought low daily to the transformation Christ offers.  This is not a “one and done” decision or action.  Next from the faith God gives to us, He adds virtue, in the transforming of who we are.  With the virtue of loving others, He adds knowledge about the true meaning of His word, separating His Truth from the teachings and traditions of men who vainly attempt to interpret scripture.  To knowledge, He adds temperance.  So often we come to believe we “know it all” or have “seen it all”.  Temperance teaches us to think moderately, to leave open the idea that there will forever be more to discover and find, whether that be the Truth of Jesus Christ, or the joy Jesus brings to our lives. 
To temperance, He adds patience.  How often have we longed for the process of perfection to be done in an instant?  But we are not ready for an instant transformation, if it happened to us we would in all likelihood, throw it away.  We need time to learn to trust completely.  We need to see God build His character in us steadfastly over time, past our failures, and learn that we can rely only on Him.  “We” cannot be trusted, but “He” never fails.  This takes time for our stubborn minds to grasp, accept, and come to believe in with unshaken trust.  To patience, He adds godliness.  As we learn to trust Him more, we submit more of ourselves to Him, and the transition from self-centered to loving-others makes us appear more and more like a reflection of Jesus Christ.  To godliness, He adds brotherly kindness.  It is easier to love our family than to love others in general.  God allows us to experience the object of loving others with those closest to us first.  Then He adds to our brotherly kindness, charity in general, or the ability to love even total strangers with as much care as we do our own family. 
This life cycle outlines a path of living the salvation experience.  It is an uplifting path that leads us up to Christ.  We do not forsake the loving of others, or engagement with others along the way, as isolation is not our goal.  But in moving upwards to Christ our love for others draws their interest and attention along the way, and can inspire in them a desire to know more for themselves.  This is how the saved bear fruit.  Peter continues in verse 8 … “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  These character traits are revelations of Jesus Christ and His work within us.  They are NOT evidence of our own righteousness, but of His righteousness working its will within us.  Our fruit, that is our results, are the results of His transformative love in our lives.  We do not remain bound in sin forever, but instead are made free from sin’s grasp by His power.
Then comes Peter’s first ominous warning in verse 9 … “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”  Peter is not talking to those who have never known the Truth of Jesus Christ in this passage, but rather to those who have tasted of this freedom.  Those who have halted, or stunted the process of salvation, by refusing to submit some part of themselves to Christ to be remade; have in so doing, introduced a spiritual cancer that is destined to metastasize within them.  The lack of characteristics defined above in living the salvation experience reflect a spiritual blindness in the part of the believer.  Without true transformation, we are unable to see His Truth.  And we come to forget His victories over sin within us, turning back to the lusts we were once made free from.  We come to forget we were at one time purged of our old lusts and sins, and instead re-embrace them once again.  Thus the potential to fall from grace has been introduced.
This section of Peter’s warning concludes as he writes in verse 10 … “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: [verse 11] For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”  Peter reminds us that rather than allow ourselves to fall from Grace, we must remain diligent in surrendering our will to Jesus Christ.  It is the insertion of “self” into the process of salvation that leads to corrupt it.  It is the absence of “self” and a complete trust in Jesus Christ to save that will keep us pure and upon His path.  The arrogance of one faith to assert its value over that of another leads us to rely on our own scriptural interpretations rather than in humility to be led by Jesus Christ to the Truth of Him that we need, when we need it.  All of what Peter asks us to experience above is a result of transformative power, not of scriptural study.  Peter is asking us to make the gospel come alive by submitting to Jesus to be transformed from who we were, into who He intends us to be.  We are to make the pages of the Bible come alive in us, by being transformed by His love.  A cold dissection of words in His Book, is not the same as a warm reflection of His love directly into the life of another.
If we are to minister in His kingdom, we must learn to reflect His love to any we come in contact with.  Love is the basis of the power of the gospel.  When we deny love, we deny Christ.  When we reserve and hold our love back, we deny Christ the access to remake who we are.  If we are to keep our calling sure, and the process of being made elect sure, we must let His love flow freely through us.  The world does not need another condemnation of its evil.  It needs an alternative from evil.  It needs a solution for evil.  It needs the love of Jesus Christ to made alive in it, through His walking talking and loving servants spread across its lands.  The war with evil will not be won through condemnation, but through real reform.  Hate cannot defeat hate, only spread it.  It does us no good to hate “evil” men, for we ourselves were once under the grasp of evil.  We should instead meet the most heinous evil with the most tender love.  We should instead look for ways to make the lives our worst enemies, the best we could find to offer for their happiness.   Evil is melted by the power of love.  Evil grows when it is met with its own kind.  Hate for hate, death for death, only makes both grow in scope.  Meeting it with love, causes it to turn away.
The everlasting Kingdom of Jesus Christ, is composed of those who understand “they” must die, and He must be reborn in them.  Peter was intent that his fellow believers do not fall from grace.  More counsel to avoid this fate, was to follow …