The famed Russian writer Leo Tolstoy acknowledged his life lacked a clear and compelling way to live life. Jesus’s disciple Peter declares we believing saints have by God’s divine power ‘everything we needed for life and godliness’. Having ‘everything needed’ is an amazing promise! If Tolstoy only would have mediated on Peter’s astonishing exposition! Delve briefly into it further with me. There are lessons here for all United Methodists in our time of church crisis.
First, observe, while we who know Jesus Christ await the end of all things and for Jesus to return like a thief in the night, God has given you and me everything needed until then! Having ‘everything needed’ means you and I lack nothing. Really? More particularly, Peter says this includes God giving us ‘precious and very great promises’. Here’s a sample: ‘I will not leave you orphaned…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you will, and it will be done for you…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…I am with you always…’ You will rattle off others. God’s divine power has given us everything needed for two commanding results: (1) for the result of escaping corruption resulting from lust (2) in order that we become participants of God’s divine disposition.
Because of these two results, escaping corruption and participating in God’s nature, you and I are to make every effort to underwrite our faith in Jesus Christ. This is imperative. The idea of the verb is to ‘provide for at your own expense’ for your faith as you do for your child or family. The manner in which one provides for their faith is by possessing in increasing measure a chain of virtues and godly attributes each linked to the other. Peter says, ‘Make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness and godliness with mutual affection and mutual affection with love.’ Space does not permit us to flesh out each of these. Suffice it to say, increasing the measure of these godly virtues is necessary because (a) they will make you productive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ (b) keep you from being near- sighted (c) help you from not forgetting your past cleansing from sin. Keep furnishing your faith in Christ with goodness with knowledge and knowledge tempered with self- control, self-control with endurance, mutual affection with love, and ‘you will never stumble’. You will never come to ruin! Most importantly, in providing for your faith in such manner you will share in the very disposition of God Himself! If United Methodists sought to know by faith only Jesus Christ and made every effort to provide for this faith with these virtues they would never have to be concerned about coming to ruin!
Peter bolsters his word with this confident reminder. What he is saying does not come from ‘cleverly devised myths’. Peter’s word could not be more current. ‘Myths’ is exactly what the dominant, mainline, scholarly New Testament trend of the last hundred years of Johannes Weiss, Rudolf Bultmann and the ‘Jesus Seminar’ has called it. No wonder our church has been coming to ruin. I trust Peter’s word over their word. I trust Peter when he says ‘we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty’. H states, ‘We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven’ while we were with Jesus on the mountain. They heard the Majestic Glory say, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
Believing this prophetic message was given to Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ and has come from the Holy Spirit distinguishes genuine Christians from false Christians. This brings Peter to a crucial contrast. False prophets have arisen, and are still arising among God’s people. They are among us now in the United Methodist Church. Though there are a number of examples, let me cite one recent example. The Rev. Anna Blaedel is a self-avowed, practicing homosexual pastor in the Iowa annual conference. She characterizes herself as ‘an unrepentant queer’. She wrote on her Facebook page in August of how she awoke in the morning next to her partner and ‘kissed my sleeping beloved’s shoulder’, breathed, prayed, and ‘did tarot’ (tarot cards). That a United Methodist pastor should publicly revel in an immoral relationship and engage in the pagan divination practice of ‘tarot cards’ confirms Peter’s warning.
False prophets arise and bring with them ‘destructive opinions’. That is, literally, ‘destructive heresies’ – even denying ‘the Master who bought them’. The bottom line of the destructive heresies is denying – refusing and saying ‘no’ - to the Master. ‘Master’ here pictures the owner of a ship. False Christians are like mutinous sailors who refuse the Captain’s word to ‘hoist up the main sail’, or ‘batten down the hatches’ or ‘about ship’. Mutinous sailors turn a ship against itself. Jesus said, ‘Whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God’ (Luke 12:9).
The upshot of denying Jesus Christ is in order to follow their own ‘licentious ways’. Licentiousness is debauchery. Debauchery is extreme indulgence in bodily pleasures – especially forbidden, sexual pleasures. Debauchery is a strong term. Nevertheless, one would be untrue to not use it to characterize today’s practical heresy in our church of rejecting the Scriptures’ teaching of sex within a marriage of one man and one woman.
Peter’s assertion of the consequence of such behavior is no less dramatic and stunning. Their condemnation ‘has not been idle’ and ‘their destruction is not asleep’. God’s active condemnation of such debauchery does not slumber. He neither spared the angels, nor Noah’s world, nor Sodom and Gomorrah. Neither will God spare those who refuse the Master and practice debauchery.
Finally, Peter’s word comes to us United Methodists in a time of trial with a reassuring promise and a stern warning. Seek to know by faith Jesus Christ and make every effort to provide for your faith with an increasing measure of virtues. Escape corrupting lusts. Share in God’s disposition. You have everything needed. You will not come to ruin. The Lord ‘knows how to rescue the godly from trial’. Please do not, but should you refuse the Master and turn to debauchery, consider God knows also how ‘to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’.