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PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORD

2 Peter 1:12-1:21
Key Verse: 1:19

In the last lesson we learned that since we received everything in Christ Jesus including redemption we are to participate in the divine nature through the very great and precious promises, especially the promise of Jesus’ second coming, which is the culmination of all the promises of God and human history. The second coming of Christ Jesus implies salvation and judgment. For this very reason we need to make every effort to add the spiritual qualities to our faith. This is a picture of the wholesome Christian life. In other words justification and sanctification cannot be separated but go together for the salvation of our souls until we receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In today’s passage Apostle Peter emphasizes again the importance of this kind of the holistic Christian life. He tells us a secret of such a life. That is to pay attention to the word.

First, always remember these things (12-15). Peter says in verses 12-15, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” Here Peter used the words, “remind you”, “refresh your memory” and “be able to remember.” This repletion of the similar kind of expression show Peter’s shepherd heart for God’s flock. He was deeply concerned about the spiritual condition of believers. He knew that people easily forget the truth of God that they have known. So he wanted to always remind them of what they had learned and known. Even though we know the truth and are firmly established in it, we still need to be reminded of it. Why is this so? It is because we are so forgetful. In some sense, we have spiritual dementia. One day we may hold firmly to the truth. But the next day we seem to have forgotten it and become anxious.

Peter said, “I will always remind you of these things” and “You will always be able to remember these things.” Let’s think more about “these things.” Of course, they are what they have been taught. They are essential things in one’s life of faith. Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Believers should always remember this redemption through the blood of Christ. And 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Believers also should remember this cross of Christ Jesus on which he bore our sins. This Jesus who died for our sins rose again, and gave us a living hope of the kingdom of God. 1 Peter 1:3,4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven or you.” We should always be reminded of this living hope of the kingdom of God given through his death and resurrection.

Those who have the living hope of the eternal kingdom of God have a different concept of body and life and death from that of the people of the world. Peter used this expression, “as long as I live in the tent of this body”, “I will soon put it aside”, and “after my departure.” Our body is a tent for our living. Apostle Paul also used this expression in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “…if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed” and in 5:4, “’…while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened…” Again, our body is a tent. Some people’s tent is big, and some others’ tent is small. But all the tent of our body, whether big or small, strong or weak, beautiful or not that beautiful, is made of the dust of the ground. And for those who have a living hope, death is putting aside this tent to be decayed in the ground. Also, death is departure. When we go to airport, there is a place for departure and a place for arrival for travelers. We are travelers to depart from this transitory, perishing corrupt world to an imperishable, indestructible and everlasting world. We have the ticket for this travel. This ticket is our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Those who have this ticket live a different life in this world. They participate in the divine nature through his very great and precious promises, especially our Lord Jesus’ coming again. Our living hope of the kingdom of God and the second coming of Christ Jesus in power and glory are linked into the eternal glorious kingdom of God, which is real and will be displayed in the coming age. In that kingdom everything will be restored. And according to 1 John 3:2, “When he appears, we shall be like him.” Those who have this anticipation make every effort to grow in faith, adding to their faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. They have eternal perspective of life. Last Thursday, on Donald Trump’s inauguration Eve, there was a firework at Washington. That was the most spectacular among all the fireworks I have seen. And, there played in the background, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” The motto spoken was “Make America great again.” It was a great spectacle in anticipation of the nation’s new president. At that moment I could think of our Lord Jesus’ coming again in power and glory. Then how much far greater and more splendorous and glorious it will be with the inauguration of the eternal king, perfectly righteous and perfectly loving! There will be no hint of unrighteousness and sin with the complete destruction of evil. Indeed we should have the eternal perspective of life. This is why he chose and called us. God wants us to always remember these things and remind God’s flock of sheep of these things, refreshing our memory and their memory.

King Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, employed a special servant. His only task was to remind the king, “You will die soon.” Whenever the king was vulnerable to temptation, such as to do something unjust, the servant spoke up, “You will die soon.” This helped the king make right decisions in light of history, instead of reacting emotionally. In the same way, we need to be constantly reminded particularly that Jesus is coming soon (Rev 22:7, 12, 20) so that we may participate in the divine nature being alert. Jesus stressed this through a parable: “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:35-37). We don’t know when Jesus will come again, or when we may go to Jesus. That is why we need to always be alert and remember these things.

Second, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (16-18). In this part, Peter contrasts his testimony—the apostolic witness—with the cleverly devised stories of false teachers. In the Greco-Roman world there were many man-made myths. In these myths there were many gods related to practical life. These gods had some kind of power, but they were like human beings: full of sinful desires. They were envious, hateful, adulterous, murderous, deceptive, and unfaithful. They were petulant, moody, and ruthless. They were unpredictable and totally unreliable. There were many cleverly devised stories about these gods. In this kind of religious atmosphere, false teachers tried to present teachings about Jesus as mere clever stories. They did not want people to take Jesus’ second coming literally.

But Peter said in verse 16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Here “majesty” refers to the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not like the gods of the myths. He is not a man-made god. He is the true God. As we studied in Colossians, he is the image of the invisible God. He is the creator. “By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Col 1:14-15). He is God Incarnate, in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9).

Peter said continually in verses 17-18. “For he received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” In the gospel story after Peter’s confession of Christ and Jesus’ prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them to a high mountain. There he was transfigured into a glorious image. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. At that moment Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” I think he really wished to say, “one for me”, but could not say it. At that time he was spiritually young with the desire for ease and glory. Anyway, while he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mt 17:1-5). Peter could not forget this event. Peter’s purpose of telling this story is to let the audience know that the transfigured image of Jesus in power and glory is the very appearance with which Jesus would come again. In other words Jesus’ glorious transfiguration was a prelude of his second coming. Peter wanted people to know that this is not a cleverly devised story. This is just as Apostle Paul said in Galatians 1:11, “…the gospel I preaches is not something that man made up.” Peter, along with the other apostles testified to what they saw—even through their martyrdom. They were indeed eyes witnesses of his majesty. Peter really wanted God’s flock of sheep to believe Jesus’ second coming in power and glory.

Third, pay attention to the word (16-21). The apostolic witness is indeed certain and reliable; it became the New Testament. Then Peter says in verse 19, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain…” Here the word of the prophets refers to the Old Testament. The Apostolic witness based on what they saw is special and very important, for God’s people and members of God’s household are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20). Peter used this expression, “more certain” to indicate that the word of the Scripture is more certain than any individual’s experience. Even one’s personal experience should be confirmed by the Scripture. We remember that even Jesus relied on the words of the Scripture in his battle against the devil. He defeated the devil’s temptation with the written words of the Scriptures, saying, “It is written…” at each time. As for us the Old Testament and the New Testament together are the Scriptures. Together they are more certain and completely reliable as the Bible. The written words of the Bible should be the ground of our faith.

Then Peter said in verses 20 and 21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Simply put, the word of the prophets is the very God of God. In the Bible we see Peter’s faith in the word of God. He could follow Jesus continually while many left him, because he could find that the words of Jesus were the words of God, the words of eternal life. He said in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And he said in 1 Peter 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” It is true that we have been born again through the word of God, which is living and enduring. Peter said continually in 1 Peter 2:24,25, quoting the words of Isaiah, “For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’” This is quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8. He assures that all humans and all their glory are gone but the word of the Lord stands forever. He could make such a confession, because the word of the prophet Isaiah was the word of God to Peter, deeply embedded in his heart.

Apostle Peter teaches us how to internalize the written words of the Bible. He said, “You do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” At that time sailing was possible as the sailors paid attention to a light shining in a dark place. The world is dark, and there is no light in sinner’s hearts. Apostle Peter urges us to pay attention to the word of God until the day dawns the morning star rises in our hearts. The Psalmist of Psalm 119 meditated on the word of God paying attention to it, until he confessed, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119:105). And this was his prayer, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (119:18).

As we studied, Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Those who fear God have respect for the word of God and tremble at his word. And the fear of the LORD is the key to a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. Those who have the fear of God and respect for his word are willing to be disciplined in the word of God but fools despise such discipline. To pay attention to the word God we need to be disciplined in the word of God. Some read a passage repeatedly, even a whole book in one sitting. Some write a certain passage again and again. Some memorize the passage. Scripture tells us to meditate on the word of God day and night. Those who are disciplined and trained in the words of God know how to pay attention to the word of God. We need to pay attention to the word of God until the understanding of the word comes to us. We need to pay attention to the word of God until the Holy Spirit discloses the word and illuminate our hearts. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit, that is the Spirit of truth, will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13). Apostle Peter said, “You will do well to pay attention to it until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.” And Jesus said in Revelation 22:16, “I…am the bright Morning Star.”

In our lives there are times we need direction for our future. Then it is the very time to pay attention to the word of God. God’s word can give us a clear direction. When we reach our limitation, we need to pay attention to the word of God. When we do not know how to help God’s flock of sheep, we need to pay attention to the word of God. When unexpected and unbearable things happen, it is the time to pay attention to the word of God. When there is conflict in human relationship, we should to pay attention to the word of God. When a problem arises in the church, we should pay attention to the word of God. When there was a problem in Jerusalem church between Grecian Jews and Hebraic Jews due to food distribution matter, Peter said, “We give our attention to prayer and the ministry of God’s word” (Ac 6:4).

When the time was dark under Herod’s rule and they themselves had a fatalistic element of life with childlessness, Zechariah and Elizabeth overcome the dark time and their fatalistic life situation by paying attention to the word of God. Luke 1:6 says, “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” It shows how much they paid attention to the word of God, studying the word of God together and surely praying together. Then in their old age God gave them a son, John the Baptist, who could be a lamp in that dark time as the forerunner of the Messiah (Jn 5:35). In his young age, Daniel was an exile in Babylon due to his nation’s tragic situation. However, he was not fatalistic or sorrowful. He was confident and knew what to do and how to live there. Daniel 1:8 says “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” I believe that Daniel could make such a resolution because he paid attention the word of God, probably God’s word in Leviticus, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). Later on, after serving the several pagan kings, his compassion for his people was still in his heart. When he paid attention to the words of the Scriptures, he could find God’s promise that the time of Babylonian captivity would be 70 years. So based on that promise of God, he could pray. Daniel 9:2-3 says, “In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition…” At the end of 2010, when I thought about a new decade, 2011-2020, I did not know how to face this new decade. God’s ministry was not that prospective especially in disciple-raising. At that time I struggled to pay attention to the word of God. Then the words of Acts 1:8 came to him. I could have a vision and pray that we would be powerful and courageous witnesses of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit and God would establish 12 house churches by 2020. I shared this prayer topic at our 2011 New Year Conference. I believe that God will bless this prayer topic. I still need to pay attention to the word of God for myself and for God’s ministry. This year I may pay more attention to Galatians 2:20, which I received through Galatians study last year and be rooted and built in this word of God. God wants all of us to pay attention to the word of God until the days dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts. We believe that when we pay attention to the word of God, we can overcome ourselves, the devil’s scheme and the world. May we need to pay attention to the word of God each and every week. This is the meaning of eating daily bread and writing weekly testimony. When we are disciplined in this way, we can pay attention to the word of God at a crucial time.

We again thank and praise God for his very great and precious glorious promise of Jesus’ second coming power and glory. With this anticipation we may pay attention to the word of God until the day dawns and the morning star arises in our heart so we can overcome ourselves and the devil and the world and live as the witnesses of our Lord Jesus in this world.

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