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Sermon November 11, 2018

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1374

November 11, 2018 2 Peter 2:10b-22

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

Waterless Springs”

 

Before reading our passage in 2 Peter 2, I want to set up the context. As we saw last Sunday, Peter begins with the understanding that by God’s divine power we have been invited to participate in God’s divine nature, that is, in His life and character. We begin in faith and make every effort to build on that faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, and family affection, all culminating in the divine love of God. The inference is that we begin in faith a life long journey to love, to the love of God and to love as God loves. This is what it means to partake of God’s divine nature. The bulk of the letter then deals with enemies of the gospel and those who would seek to entice believers, especially new believers, away from this life with God. Today we are dealing with one of Peter’s warnings against false teachings within the church. I would also suggest that we might consider all the false teaching of the world as another threat to the orthodox teachings of the church. So, there are possible false teachings inside and outside the church of which we need to become aware and from which we need to protect ourselves and others. So let’s read 2 Peter 2:10b-22…

 

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. 17These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

 

  • Hey Peter, Lighten Up!

 

When we read a passage like this our first thought in our day and age might be, “Hey Peter, lighten up!” In our modern sensitivities many would dismiss Peter as a mean old man or a bigoted Christian. Calling your opponents “irrational animals, ignorant, revelers, insatiable sinners, and accursed children” does not seem like the best approach to winning them to Christ. Peter’s concern, I believe, is not about the welfare of these opponents who are false teachers, but about the welfare and purity of the church. Peter may even be more gentle with those outside the church who do not know any better, but he is dealing with false teachers within the church, those who should know better, and those who will be even more accountable because they are knowledgeable about Jesus and yet are entangled in the lies of the world. They have returned to the corruption from which they once escaped.

My outline heading for Peter to lighten up is an exaggeration that might be proclaimed from the world today, but Peter’s accusations against false teachers in the church is completely just and justified by the damage that such false teachings can do among the faithful.

 

Peter’s words may appear to us and to our time as mean spirited and perhaps even unchristian, but most any criticism in our time will be labeled as hatred or intolerant or offensive. I see Peter’s tone as a warning to the church to be on the look out for people such as this who seek to entice us away from solid teachings and from the faith.

 

It may have been more effective in Peter’s time to be as harsh and straightforward as he is in this letter. I know the Reformers were much the same way during the turbulent times of the Reformation. But times change and our approach, while honoring the truth given in the critique, may need a different method to be effective today. It is always a difficult task to criticize someone in a way that will help them see the truth. And for the most part if we are critical today we just get called names and labeled in the most destructive ways possible.

In the end, I don’t think Peter needs to lighten up! When it comes to threats against the orthodox truth of the church and Bible, we need to be diligent to adhere to that truth.

 

 

  • The Danger of False Teachers

 

Since the beginning of God’s commands to humankind, there have been enemies. The first was in the garden of Eden when Satan caused Adam and Eve to doubt God’s Word. Then throughout history false prophets and teachers have been using the same tactic to entice people away from obedience to the Lord. Peter deals sternly with these enemies of the gospel. They do not fear the Lord as they teach falsehoods. They have no respect for God or Christ or Christians. They are ignorant. They take pleasure in revelry and sensual passions and they have an eye toward adultery, which may be an allusion to an eye toward breaking all God’s commandments. They are insatiable for sin, that is, they cannot get enough sin! They cannot control their greed and corruption, so much so, that they seek to entice everyone around them to the same kind of life. But they do it in ways that seem pleasant and truthful. Verse 19 - They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. They promise one thing but deliver another. Their promises are empty of substance. They are lifeless hoaxes, charlatans only out for their own pleasures and gains.

They are most dangerous because they are not immediately evident in their evil, but hide themselves behind the misrepresented veils of tolerance or social justice or compassion, only to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus warns us as well when we read Matthew 7:15-20, on the inside they are ravenous wolves, but on the outside they appear to be as mild as sheep. These are the people about which Jesus and Peter warn us. They come with news that may sound great at first, may sound quite compassionate and loving, but there is something not quite right. The deeper we are rooted into God’s grace and knowledge, the greater ability we have to sense and know that something may not be quite right.

 

Peter’s concerns reflect the danger of sins that are persistent, lifestyle kinds of things. Three passages deal with the dangers of persistent sin.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

 

Hebrews 10:26-31 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

These three texts leave little room for recourse when sin persists. This is why Peter gets so serious about watching for the dangers of false teachings.

 

 

  • Waterless Springs

 

Perhaps my favorite expression from Peter in this section is the term “waterless springs”. Verse 17 - These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.

 

A waterless spring is no spring at all. It has no life. It cannot promise what it does not have. It is dried up, lifeless, claiming to be a spring but without the water to deliver. They are empty cisterns, processed imitation food (individually wrapped “cheese” slices), no life, no nutrients, no energy, no generative spirit. Dry, arid, deathly, sinful, worldly. No hope, no joy, no life. They are like those who promise one thing and deliver another or promise one thing and deliver nothing. Where do we hear such empty promises?

 

Many, but not all, politicians.

Most, but not all, advertisements.

Many, but not all, worldly philosophies.

Most, but not all, diet plans.

Most, but not all, reviews of products, movies, or restaurants.

Most, but not all, financial advice.

Many, but not all, technologies.

Most, but not all, super bowl hype.

Most, but not all, movie previews.

 

You get the picture! The world is filled with waterless springs that have no life. It reminds me of the false gods described in Psalm 115 and elsewhere in Scripture.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them (Ps. 115:5-7).

 

There is no life in them! And there is no life in those who follow them.

 

 

  • Living Water

 

By contrast, God and God’s Word is filled with springs of living water!

 

Jeremiah 2:13, “...for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

 

God is the fountain of living waters. God is the complete opposite of these waterless springs. In God there is life giving water.

 

John 4:7-15 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

 

In God there are life giving promises, life giving water, life giving bread, life giving Word, and life giving Spirit. This is why Peter warns so strenuously against those who have no life to offer.

 

 

 

  • Grow in Grace and Knowledge

 

 

Because what Peter says is pretty tough to our ears I want to end this sermon with the end of this letter on how we avoid the lifeless waterless springs. 2 Peter 3:17-18

 

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

Because God loves the world, evil must be recognize, exposed, and confronted. It is necessary to protect those who might be enticed to return to their old sinful ways. It is necessary to bring those who claim Christ yet live in persistent sin back to obedience, if possible. Let me make clear that Peter is probably protecting those who know the gospel but have not yet fully given themselves over to God. His concern is not about the possibility of losing our salvation, but about being able to entice to persistent sin, which is certainly a danger to the faithful.

Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:5 that all who are saved, all who have given themselves over to Christ are indeed guarded by the Holy Spirit. But 1 John 2:19 is the concern here, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

It is not our place to say who is saved and who is not, that’s God’s deal. We only know by their fruits. But Peter warns that any who teach falsehood and any who go away from the truth once tasted are worse off than before. It is much like the parable of the sower for those who receive the word with but either have no root, or can’t survive trials, or quickly get choked by the cares of the world.

But I also think every Christian needs to protect themselves from these enemies of the Church, not that we might lose our salvation, but that we might weaken our devotion and witness to Jesus Christ. Even more, that we might not enjoy the life that comes with living waters because we are wasting our time with waterless springs.

To avoid waterless springs, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Growth and knowledge come in prayer, study, worship, fellowship, service, and all those things we know lead us to the Truth. Stick close to the Word of God in all things. Listen to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. Test the teachings of others against the Scripture and the traditional teachings of the Church, in our case, of the Reformed Faith. All who do this will produce the fruit of the Spirit and will follow Jesus Christ and His commands. And we will know life and peace and joy in its fullness. We give thanks that God protects us and leads us in His way. Amen.