Real and Present Sin

I encourage the reader to take time for a slow, meditative reading of today’s Scripture. It is pertinent to our modern situation in so many ways. We will use the easier-to-process New Living Translation today.

2 Peter 2:4-21 (NLT)

For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment. And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. Later, God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment. He is especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire, and who despise authority.

These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling. But the angels, who are far greater in power and strength, do not dare to bring from the Lord a charge of blasphemy against those supernatural beings.

These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight. They are a disgrace and a stain among you. They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals. They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse. They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.

These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.

By Chuck Griffin

French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire wrote, “The devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Just short of that, I suppose, would be Satan’s success in convincing us that sin really doesn’t matter.

Both are notions flatly contrary to the Bible. Sin not only exists, the acts constituting sin are clearly defined, even if people want to limit themselves to post-resurrection New Testament texts. Sin at one point corrupted the realm of angels, and it most certainly continues to corrupt the abode of humanity.

Sin is in us; sin is among us. False teachers openly carry it into our most sacred places, saying, “Oh, don’t worry about that.” As they do so, they move their arguments along in stages.

Stage 1: Play a game of Theological Twister with me, and I will show you the Bible doesn’t really say what the church has claimed all these centuries.

Stage 2: If you really think about it, there are whole sections of the Bible that need to be thrown out.

Stage 3: Are we really going to trust those musty old writings over what is in our own hearts?

Our reading from 2 Peter makes it clear that sin scoffers existed among the church in the earliest days of Christianity. They have always been nearby; that same old song of the false teachers simply receives a new tune now and then. It always remains a song of destruction, though.

Yes, there is love. Praise God there is love! Only magnificent love would be so patient with such nonsense. It took far more love than we can imagine to keep the holy Christ on the cross, dying for all our sins.

The pursuit of holiness is the perfectly appropriate response to such an astonishing gift of love. Holiness is simple: It is the committed effort to cease sinning, an effort made possible by repentance and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.

To be flip about sin—to deliberately, consciously draw others back into it—is to disregard the cross, the source of our salvation.

Lord, as we continue through this season of Lent, search us and show us where we deviate from your will. Amen.

A Growing List

2 Peter 1:2-11 (NLT)

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

By Chuck Griffin

At the core of the above passage is a spiritual to-do list, a way to grow as a Christian. Each item is strengthened by something else on the list, with the ultimate goal of experiencing a strong, unshakable faith.

Moral excellence, or goodness, undergirds great faith and has to do with whether we choose what God would choose in the same circumstances. But how do we know how to choose?

Well, knowledge helps to prop up moral excellence. The Lord has revealed much to us in the Holy Bible, even if it does sometimes take a little effort and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to tease the information out. What a gift: thousands of years of holy revelation at our fingertips!

Why do we fail to dig out what we need? We have trouble staying focused. We lack self-control. The painful distractions and immediate pleasures of this world draw us away from the rich rewards available to us in the Bible and through direct contact with God in prayer.

Patient endurance marks the beginning of self-control. We see the fiery darts of the enemy coming at us, but regardless of whether and where they stick, we know we can keep moving forward as Christians because God is with us. And if we find ourselves passing through Vanity Fair, we don’t slow down, for we know our real destination.

If that previous paragraph was confusing, I just went all “Pilgrim’s Progress” on you. If you haven’t read it, you really should try it.

Godliness supports endurance, of course. This is a little different from the “goodness” or “moral excellence” that develops down the road in this spiritual journey. At this stage, there is a simple desire to please God, springing from the warmth that is felt when in fellowship with other Christians.

And the beginning of all of this is love. We understand true love when we first comprehend what God has done for us. “For God so loved the world … .” We didn’t deserve God’s love; maybe those around us should receive love regardless of what they deserve, too.

And don’t miss the promise Peter made: “Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Seems to me like we have a to-do list worth doing.

Lord, thank you for the guidance Peter and other conduits of your holy word offer us. May we grow as we live the lives of disciples. Amen.

The Q Recovery

2 Peter 1:20-21 (New Living Translation)

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.


Discerning whether supposed prophets speak for God can be difficult. The task becomes even more difficult when their audiences desperately want to hear someone assert that change is swiftly coming.

Such an environment is ripe for abuse by hoaxsters, con artists and power mongers. This is an ancient problem; nearly 3,500 years ago, God gave the Israelites simple instructions regarding how to discern whether a prophet is true or false. In short, God told them, time will tell.

Deuteronomy 18:22: “If the prophet speaks in the Lord’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the Lord did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.”

I raise this subject today because the ancient problem remains a current problem, and I am genuinely concerned for a group of people. They are or were followers of an anonymous self-styled internet prophet called Q, forming a fringe movement which began to develop many of the traits of a religion. In some places, people even have attempted to blend Q with Christianity, resulting in a voodoo-like mashup of ideas.

I don’t spend any time drifting about in the part of the internet where Q followers share their thoughts, but people who monitor these places say many of these folks are struggling. Q’s prophecies regarding the Trump presidency and what was supposed to happen by now in U.S. politics simply have not come true.

People with a strong stake in profiting from the movement—think of online donations and Q-emblazoned sweatshirts for sale—already have begun to adjust their interpretations to stretch the timeline. A lot of these Q followers remain disillusioned, however.

I don’t know if any of them would ever see what I write today, but I do want to offer them some comfort and a new path to consider.

You clearly are passionate people, and you have a deep desire to participate in important change in this world. Someone took unfair advantage of these powerful traits you carry within you, but those traits are gifts from God!

I so want you to examine prophecies that have come true, ancient promises from God fulfilled by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no way I can unpack that statement for you in a short blog item, but it is my prayer that despite your frustration, you will explore this idea: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

If this is a new idea, consider it for the first time by picking up a simple translation of the Bible, something along the lines of the New Living Translation I’ve been quoting today. Start at Matthew, the first book of the New Testament.

If you were disillusioned by a bad church experience, or if you realize you’ve drifted from core, traditional Christian beliefs, please consider doing exactly the same thing. Let the Holy Spirit rather than human beings do the talking through God’s word, and you then will know what to do next.

I pray you also will see how the Holy Spirit brings about true Great Awakenings, those moments when communities rapidly grow in their understanding that the work of Jesus Christ is setting all of creation right. This holy process happens not via politics, but through the peaceful transformation of hearts, and Christ’s followers have a critical role to play in the change to come.

I seek nothing from you. If I or people in similar roles can help, don’t be afraid to ask.

Lord, speak your empowering word to passionate hearts, and may your truth resound in them like a tolling bell calling the faithful home. Amen.

Out of the Fire

2 Peter 3:8-13 (NRSV)

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.


The Apostle Peter paints a cataclysmic picture of Christ’s return. It is an image of the universe melting away in an unimaginable heat. The earth remains, stripped bare, its people exposed before God, their inner holiness and evil undeniably on display.

Peter’s words could be just mind-boggling symbolism, of course. But as I’ve pointed out in the past, symbols are a simple way of understanding a more complex reality.

If we believe the Bible is communicating God’s truth, then we have to acknowledge the experience of judgment will be at least as overwhelming as what we see here, and likely more so. We will come face-to-face with our holy creator while stripped bare of our pretenses and self-delusions.

Peter’s letter is a call to ready ourselves, to plunge into our own personal purifying fire. It should help us to know this: What comes out of the fire is far greater than what went into the fire.

Peter would have been familiar with Malachi’s Old Testament prophecies of a day when God’s appointed one would come to act as a “refining fire” and “fuller’s soap,” purifying what has been tainted by sin. The prophecy is not so much about the refining process as it is about what comes out, gold and silver in their purest forms.

After his images of fiery destruction, Peter also alludes to the “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” We submit ourselves to purification by God’s Holy Spirit not out of fear, but in joy, knowing God’s purifying work through Christ will establish a greater way of living. We ready ourselves for a place in the new creation.

So, how do we submit?

Many of you have made that first step, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord. Those of you who have not—well, Peter makes clear that God is patient until the time of patience ends.

Our faith leads us to a new level of engagement with God. The early Methodists had a simple set of rules to live by as they pursued holiness. They are just as instructive for us today.

First, do no harm. What are we doing that damages others? How do we stop doing those things?

Second, do good. Again, the principle is very simple. Do we do good in every way we can, whenever we have the opportunity?

Third, stay in love with God. I’m borrowing Rueben Job’s paraphrase of John Wesley’s more elaborate statement, “By attending upon all the ordinances of God.” By this, Wesley meant participating in public worship, studying God’s word, receiving communion, praying, and abstaining from activities that can distract us from God.

When we follow these rules, we open ourselves to the refining work of the Holy Spirit. And we do not regret the loss of any sin that is burned away.

Lord, make us ready. Amen.