Saturday, May 27, 2023

Greater Love

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

As we open Peter’s 2nd letter and embark on studying his final Epistle, we find a few things that Peter and Paul have in common besides their faith and love for Jesus and for His Church. While Paul was dispatched from Jerusalem to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, Peter’s mission was to continue spreading the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 15, circa 50 C.E. [A.D.]). At the First Council of Jerusalem, the Apostle James declared that Gentiles should also be saved, as the testimony of the scriptures supported it. Being not only an Apostle, but half-brother to the Lord Jesus, James’ opinion carried much weight in Jerusalem’s fledgling Church. Galatians records Paul going to the Council and finding that James, Peter, and John “seemed to be the Pillars” of the Church (Gal. 2:9); not a single “Pope,” but a committee of three of Jesus’ closest Apostles were leading the Church into the future.

But between the two letters of 2 Peter, and 2 Timothy for Paul, the authors have in common an awareness of their soon martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6 and 2 Peter 1:14). This did not deter them from writing or preaching Jesus however, it motivated them all the more! Both writers foresee the Apostacy of the Church. Both lay the responsibility for the Apostacy at the feet of false teachers. Both acknowledge that the false teachers emanate from within the Church! And both Paul and Peter see it happening during troublesome times on Earth, perilous times for the sacred, inspired Word of God and people of true faith.

Other Epistles provide even more troubling details: Christ’s personhood is heavily doubted by false teachers (1 John 4:1-5), and in the Epistle of Jude, yet another half-brother to Jesus foresees the Apostacy fully evidenced in all phases of the Church.

But in all these Epistles, no prophecy of the End-Times changes the faith of any Apostle. God and His promises remain the strength and hope for Believers everywhere. All but John died as martyrs because of their faith in Jesus. And John was exiled to a penal colony to live out his days alone. They all suffered for their faith.

Forward to 90 C.E. – John writes his 3 Epistles, and about 96 C.E., Revelation!
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified by His angel unto His servant John.” ~ Revelation 1:1

Sunday Morning Audio Message:
2 Peter 1:1-21 - "Greater Love"


As we begin Peter's last epistle, Peter describes himself as both a servant and an apostle.  His letter is directed to the same churches that he wrote to in his first epistle, to those believers that have obained "like precious faith... through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."   Peter is not addressing Christian Jews, but also the many new Gentile converst that had come into these churches. 

What is that "like precious faith?"  Peter specifies this faith, the wonderful gift of faith that is given to us by God.   God gives us the wonderful capacity to believe and to trust Him.  To be clear, this precious faith is beyond the human capacity, "For by grace are you saved through” – what – “faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

When we think of the word "precious," we think of something that is costly, like jewels.  This precious gift was given at the cost of Jesus, the precious Son of God, whereby we obtain salvation.  We have been justified in the sight of God, and forgiven from all sins because of Christ's atonement, and by the Spirit who raised Him from the dead.  What a precious gift, this gift of faith.

So, Peter is directing this letter to fellow believers. Instead, Peter begins by addressing an issue which remains a focus of the church even today: whether or not believers will be productive and effective servants of God through our knowledge of Him. 

The word "knowledge" (Greek gnosis or epignosis) occurs seven times in 2 Peter, all with reference to Christ.  It means acknowledging Him, full discernment, and recognition. 

The purpose of our salvation is that we should become like Christ.  Christian growth depends on the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the kind of knowledge that is translated into action.  Our salvation is real.  It is life changing.  It is living out one's life in response to acknowledging Him. 

Peter starts by saying that no Christian—no one who knows God through faith in Jesus is missing anything.  He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  God gives us all that we need to lead the godly lives we are called to through His Word.  By His grace, having been freed from the corruption of this world, we are made partakers in His nature and purpose. In other words, we are fully equipped to live godly lives. 

Peter goes on, "and besides this... " giving all diligence.  This is important.  Diligence here means make it your business, with all haste and care, and earnestness.  Giving all diligence to add to our faith a very specific set of Christlike characteristics:  virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and agape love.    It appears that without making all diligence there is no growth in holiness.  

Note:  Take the time to do a word study on this word, "diligence."  Scripture reveals that diligence is required by God in seeking him, obeying Him, hearkening to Him, striving after perfection, cultivating Christian graces, keeping the soul, keeping the heart, following every good work, guarding against defilement, making our calling sure, self-examination, just to name a few.

If we have these Christlike qualities and continue to abound (or grow) in them, we are leading the life God calls us to. Specifically, we are being effective and productive in the knowledge of Jesus we have been given.

If we fall short in these qualities, we still remain God's children through faith in Christ. Our eternal salvation is not bought, or kept, by our own efforts. However, failing to take on these traits means wasting the knowledge of Jesus. We become ineffective and unproductive servants. In fact, this makes us so nearsighted that we can seem like unbelievers who are, in fact, spiritually blind. Worse, when we fail to live up to the life we are called to, we can become forgetful. Specifically, we forget that we have already been cleansed of the sins which may now occupy us again. We have forgotten who we are in Christ.

Peter urges us to demonstrate the reality of our place in God's family. We do this by eagerly exercising these qualities in our lives as we look forward to the day when Jesus will warmly welcome us into His kingdom. As Peter writes, he knows his readers are already aware of things, but he intends to keep reminding them. He will keep stirring them up, so that they will continue connecting what they know in Christ with how they live. He is preparing them to keep going after his death, which will come soon.

Peter reminds the reader, as well, that he was told by Jesus Himself that he would die. And yet, Jesus also allowed Peter to see the transfiguration: the moment when Jesus was revealed in His glory and the Father's voice declared Jesus as Son. According to Peter, his personal, eyewitness testimony to that event confirms all of the prophecies about the Messiah, including His return as judge and king.

God wants His beloved children to enjoy the assurance of their salvation. In fact, Peter writes this marvelous section in order that believers may experience the assurance that God desires for them. Given the fact that the enemy, the devil, is the accuser of the brethren, and always wants to hit us with blows of doubt to make us doubt our salvation, God, on the other hand, wants to affirm our spiritual condition and our assurance.

Knowing that his time was short, and the church faced immediate danger, Peter called upon the readers to refresh their memories and stimulate their thinking so that they would remember his teaching after he was gone (2 Peter 1:15). Remember God's Word, and all that you have been taught. Peter desired that believers would grow strong in their faith to withstand the devil, withstand false teachers, and to stand in the day of adversity. Our testimony is only as strong as our knowledge of Jesus Christ, not just a head knowledge, but by applying these truths, and living them out as a witness of Christ.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Broken Families

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

End Times Series Continues . . .

In 1 Samuel 15, the Prophet Samuel is speaking to King Saul of Israel. Saul has irrevocably sinned against the Lord, and ignored God’s Word, the Law, as it was written. Samuel is there to rebuke Saul, and to tell him that his time reigning over Israel is done. A new King will be appointed. Saul’s time of rule is over. Ignoring, or deliberately breaking God’s Laws brings serious consequences. In God’s view, it is serious enough to remove Kings from their office!

For the Jews, the Ten Commandments were sacrosanct; Israel was a Theocracy in those days. What we will study today is the breakdown of natural affections, the relinquishing of control by parents over their children, and the overall breakdown of societies and wholesome relationships, and the Word of God disrespected.

Our reading of 2 Kings 2 is another example in scripture of the breakdown of families; obviously Cain and Abel were the first. I may be reading too much into 2 Kings 2, but it appears to provide an example of children left to themselves to run the streets. They rule the streets with chaos, havoc, disrespect, and fear. If my thinking is accurate, then we are already experiencing similar things in the world’s cultures today.

Our study in 2 Timothy 3 describes the fulfillment of end-times prophecy. If you see any similarities in your locale, then the end-times, perhaps even the Last Days are surely upon us!

Reading and listening to mainstream media will tell you what is going on in the world around you.

Reading God’s Word will tell you why.

Matthew 24:12,13 -

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, shall be saved.”

Today's Audio Message:
2 Timothy 3:1-17 - "Broken Families"


In 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9, Paul describes the last days apostasy. The word "apostasy" comes from the Greek "apostasia", which is translated "falling away" in ⁠2 Thessalonians 2:3⁠. The word is closely related to the Greek word for "divorce."

Apostates are those who fall away from the true faith, abandoning what they formerly professed to believe. The term describes those whose beliefs are so deficient as to place them outside the pale of true Christianity. For example, a liberal denomination that denies the authority of Scripture or the deity of Christ is an apostate denomination.

True Christians do not apostatize. Those who fall away into apostasy demonstrate that their faith was never real to begin with (⁠1 John 2:19⁠).

While the church has always been plagued by false teachers, false apostles, false pastors, false preachers and false Christians; meaning those who name the name of Christ and claim they represent God, but, in fact, the represent Satan. They are deceivers who create confusion and disorder in the church. Just as Jesus warned us about them in Matthew 24, the apostles have also written at length about them warning us to be aware, to be sober and vigilant, and here the apostle Paul instructs us, "from such turn away" or withdraw yourself from their company and influence.

Paul describes these times as "perilous times." The word "perilous" can be translated "fierce" or "furious." Men's hearts will be wicked and perverse. Not only will they practice sin, they will force it upon society, as they do the world becomes more dangerous, and violent. These are not times that are coming, these are the times we are living in. This is evidence of the truth of scripture.

Paul makes clear the signs of apostates. They are described as lovers of their own selves, covetous, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures mor than lovers of God. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. There will be little distinction between the secular world and the religious world in the last days.

The second section instructs us how to confront and overcome apostasy and false teaching (⁠2 Timothy 3:10–17⁠). The primary means of defense against error is the God-inspired written word (⁠2 Timothy 3:16⁠). Believers must be committed to the Word of God despite all those who are stubborn, perverse, willfully obstinate and disobedient to God and His Word. Scripture reveals that they will oppose, deny, pervert, deceive, slander, persecute, and will hate the truth, the Lord and the believer. Perilous times are here, and persecution will come, but we are to continue on in the faith, to abide in Christ and remain stedfast in His Word.

There is no better instruction for believers than to immerse themselves in the Bible.

⁠2 Timothy 3:16-17 - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine or reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Resist, Stedfast in the Faith!


The audio excerpt in this video was taken from Pastor Bob's sermon; in I Peter 5, on Sunday, May 14, 2023.

From 1 Peter 5:8-9 - "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." 

Be aware, be alert, because Satan, who is the devil is your adversary. "Devil" means "slanderer" and "Satan" means "accuser;" he is also called "adversary." He is adversary to both God and man, slandering and accusing man to God and God to man. 

1 Peter 5:9 tells us to resist him. James 4:7 also tells us how, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." We can resist him because of Christ who dwells within us. We are strong in Him, and the Word of God abides in us...and that's not all, we have overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13-14). 

Despite his deceptions, his accusations, his power, his hatred and ferocity, he is already a defeated foe (Hebrews 2:14) by the work, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That said, we must "Put on the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:11, 14-17) that we can "stand against the wiles of the devil."

The word "wiles" is equivalent to "strategy."  The devil is "the god of this world," the one that "deceiveth the whole world" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9).  He can appear as "an angel of light" and yet is as "a roaring lion...seeking whom he may devour".  In our own strength, we are no match for him at all.  We can only stand against him if we are "strong in the Lord" wearing the whole armour of God.  We cannot be "ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11), deception and lies which cause us to doubt God's Word, and then to disobey it.  It is evident that he has been extremely successful with this since the beginning, and through history, through the wholesale rebellion against all of God's commandments, and finally by the rejection of God's great live in the sacrifice of His Son.

Resist him, and be stedfast in the faith!

Friday, May 12, 2023

To The Church-In-General

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Peter does a “wrap-up” of this, his first Epistle in Chapter 5. Peter has been changed, even to His personality and methods of accomplishing things. That Jesus has touched his life is evident throughout the Epistle. From a rough, impulsive fisherman, Peter is a Church Elder and a teacher here, concerned with every member of every flock that was to read this message. And as a General Epistle to be read in the churches mentioned in Verse 1.

Forgiven are Peter’s actions against the servant of the High Priest when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even Peter’s boastful attitude is now gone and forgiven. He has learned much about the mercy and forgiveness of God.

The topic of this letter is living in a Christ rejecting world. Peter seems aware that his days on Earth are numbered because of the persecution from Caesar Nero, one of the vilest of the Caesars.

The overall theme of the letter is “suffering as a Christian.” Though such a topic is difficult, Peter handles his words to every believer with gentleness and encouragement. Persecution was (is) to be expected because of our beliefs. And Peter teaches that the way to handle any level of religious persecution against us is by the example of Jesus, even as He faced the cross: quietly, prayerfully, without anger, and without trying to build a defense for self, but with an expectation of future glory.

Peter would surely have been with Jesus after His resurrection, most every day until His Ascension into heaven. Jesus’ last words to Peter and the other Apostles were of their commission to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the Earth. They were to be His witnesses and give testimony of Him to all, wherever they went. Jesus’ words to Peter should echo in our own ears: “If you love me, feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my sheep (John 21:15-17). And with this great commission, all eyes were upon the Lord, perhaps expecting further instructions, and more details…

Acts 1:9 - 
“And when He has spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”

Today's Audio Message:
1 Peter 5:1-14 - "To the Church-in-General"


Peter closes out his letter to the scattered Christians in the churches of Asia Minor with some final instructions. He counsels the elders about how to lead, includes how and why to live in humility with each other, and gives a final warning to be clear-minded and alert.

Peter counts himself as one of the elders. And so, he passes on the same instructions Jesus gave to him: to feed and shepherd Christ's sheep. That is the role of an elder in the local church: to serve as a shepherd of the "flock of God." Peter insists that those who are called to lead are not to do so by constraint, or for money or power, but with humility because they love the Lord Jesus. They should lead first and foremost by example, showing others in the church how to follow Christ by doing so themselves. When Christ returns, He will reward those shepherds with an unfading crown of glory.

In the same way, those who are younger are called to be subject to these shepherds. Newer believers should see more experienced Christians as a God-given authority in their lives. This, of course, also puts additional responsibility on those older Christians to live in a way that honors the Lord, leads others to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Peter then addresses all Christians with this: Put on humility toward each other out of submission to God. God is God, and we are not. We are to humble ourselves under His hand, understanding that our only significance is found in Him. We can freely stop promoting ourselves, because He will exalt us, when the time in due season. One such act of humility is this: "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you" (vs 5).  He loves us as a Father loves his children.  He wants us to look to Him and trust Him with all of our needs.  He already knows our needs before we do.

Peter then instructs his readers for the third time to be clear-minded (or sober-minded) and alert. The reason he offers this time is that we have a mortal enemy prowling around and seeking to devour us. The devil is portrayed as a lion, preying on the vulnerable and easy prey.  We are instructed to engage in resisting him.  Be alert!  Be aware!  Our adversary the devil is seeking to discredit the Name of Jesus Christ. 
Resist steadfast!  Immoveable Faith! We need to focus on staying firm in our faith, both in Christ, and in God's plan for us.  That plan may include suffering for the brief course of this life. And yet, it also includes a permanent end to suffering and a future in which our Father—forever powerful—will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us forever.

Finally, Peter signs off with a commendation for Silvanus, who will likely deliver this letter to the churches, as well as greetings from the Christians where he was, including his son in the faith, Mark.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Dead To Sin

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

This weekend marks one month after the Passover weekend when Jesus was Resurrected from the dead. Our date today is May 7, and this past Good Friday was on April 7. Today we might celebrate His 30th day of living after His Resurrection. It is now ten more days to Ascension Thursday, and twenty more days to the Feast of Pentecost.

These post-resurrection days of Jesus’ time on Earth were remarkable because He did not hide Himself away but showed Himself openly to everyone as He continued teaching. He had not only risen as He said, but also fulfilled of His own prophetic word through King David in Psalm 16:10 – “For thou will not leave my soul in the (grave); neither wilt thou (allow) Thy Holy One to see corruption.”

Not only would God’s Anointed rise from the grave, but His body would not begin the inglorious process of rotting away.

Chapter four of 1 Peter confronts our own doubts and unbelief in newness of life, and lays out truth for us to stand upon in faith. The Apostle Paul’s chapter 6 of Romans echoes Peter’s words: new life brings death to sin, and to the temptations of our old life.

No longer must we follow after the old lusts, because those things are dead to us our new life-in-Christ. No longer corruptible because we have put on incorruption through the death of Jesus Christ, and we shall live on into eternity.

~ Romans 8:11 ~

“But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

Today's Audio Message:

1 Peter 4:1-19 - "Dead to Sin"

In our study in First Peter chapter 4 this week, Peter urges Christians to be fiercely committed to fulfilling the purpose of our lives in Christ. Prior chapters made the case that we are a "holy people." We have been rescued from sin and meaningless lives and set apart from the world, in order to be used for God's purpose. Since believers have these new, eternal lives in Christ, we must begin to think like Jesus, including Jesus' way of thinking about suffering.

Jesus expected persecution along the way to fulfilling His mission on earth. Peter is clear that we should expect to suffer, as well. In fact, this is part of completing the mission God has given us. We should be ready and willing to suffer for Christ, as He did for us. In doing so, we will set the course of our lives away from sin, especially the mind-numbing sins of endless pleasure seeking.

The path of submission to Christ and the path of self-serving pleasure go in completely opposite directions. Those who still indulge in drunkenness, partying, and idolatry won't understand or accept the Christian's lifestyle. In fact, they will resent the fact that Christians refuse to participate. According to Peter, refusal to do what unbelievers do will result in criticism and condemnation from them. This is especially true when the believer is someone who used to commit those very sins, but has been changed by Christ.

But Peter offers a warning and encouragement: The end of all things is drawing near, and the Judge is coming. Instead of living for pleasure, we must be very careful to stay clear-minded and focused so that we can pray faithfully. We must strain hard to love each other well. We must share and serve and speak to each other with God's gifts, with His words, with His strength.

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