2 Peter 3:14–18 (NRSV)
14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also, our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless 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.
Peter’s call to “strive” is easier than distorting reality to make sin comfortable.
Why do we want to change the scriptures and create false teachings?
To distort reality so that living in sin is comfortable.
Who twists the truth?
The ignorant, lawless, and unstable. (vv. 16 and 17)
We all want to be at peace as described in v 14, and to enjoy the comfort peace brings.
Does Jesus want us to be at peace as well?
Of course. Jesus always wants the best for us.
What way does Jesus instruct us to find peace?
By “striving to be found blameless”.
Other Scriptures that refer to this striving, with everything we have, are:
Deuteronomy 6:5 (NRSV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
Matthew 12:30 (NRSV) “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Revelation 3:16 (NRSV) “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
In summary, this is the attitude of repentance.
Therefore, the scripture instructs us that the best way for us to “be at peace” is to have a wholehearted attitude of repentance, and not to do the sinful opposite which is twisting our perception of reality so that slavery to sin seems comfortable.
This may sound hard and be scary. We might be thinking, “How are we supposed to overcome these vices that have had such authority in our lives for so long?
That’s why it seems good to start with a better definition of “repentance”.
Firstly, there are two parts of “repentance”.
Confession and “striving to be found without spot of blemish” (v. 14).
Likewise, there are two parts to “confession”.
A lot of people focus on the obvious part of recounting one’s past sins to God, and miss what may be the more important point of confession.
This aspect is the confession that not only have we sinned in the past, but we also accept that our hearts are so selfish that we will return to sin time and time again, and that the only way that we are going to sin less is by growing in grace through personal experience of repentance again and again.
Therefore, when we are discouraged at the sight of the proverbial “road to peace” that looms ahead, it is important to remember that the very essence of this “striving” is not that we would walk the road alone, or even holding the hand of Jesus, but rather that we would humbly come to His feet and let Him pick us up and carry us down the road.
We are not “striving” (with our whole heart) to walk any distance at all. We are “striving” to prostrate ourselves right where we are. Jesus has already come to meet us and has been waiting.
This is what Peter means when admonishing us to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” in v. 15.
Peter is admonishing us to trust in God’s grace for us as the first, and last, step we ever need take down this “road of peace”.
So then, what does it look like when we return to sin?
That would be like Jesus carrying us down the “road of internal peace” and us violently pushing ourselves out of his arms to explore a different road that is sin.
The more mature we are in grace, the more quickly we understand that just because we looked down this road, that doesn’t mean we are obligated to take it. Even if we take steps down the road, the speed at which we humbly prostrate ourselves may be a spectrum to measure growth in grace.
Yes, it was wrong of us to violently rebel against our master, but as we grow in grace, we more quickly realize that when we turn back to Him, we will see that He is already kneeling down in a position to receive us into his arms to carry us even further down the road of peace.
We know that God does not create evil, but that he can use evil, like our sinful rebellion, for good. Thus, every time we repent and experience grace anew, our understanding and faith in His grace is strengthened and that is how we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our savior” (v. 18).
Now that we have an idea of what it looks like to walk down the road to internal peace, let’s see what does it look like to walk down the road of sin, or to twist our perception of reality to make living in sin seem comfortable to us?
First, we note that he who lies to God takes scriptural truths “that are hard to understand” (v. 16) and uses uncertainty to create confusion. Many false teachings come from this confusion that prepare an “unstable” (v. 16) foundation ready for others to choose to build their own warped realities.
An example of how these false realities create false teachings:
- Johnny is 18 years old and uses the passage of Jesus turning water into wine, recording in the beginning of The Gospel of John, to justify his addiction to alcohol and his love for being drunk.
- This is someone warping their own reality.
- A few years later a younger person, exploring the grace offered by the gospel, asks now-older-Johnny, “Why are you getting drunk all the time and still saying that you follow Jesus?”
- Johnny responds, “Well you see, Jesus turned water into wine. Therefore, it’s ok get drunk.”
- Now the false reality has become a false teaching.
Another way to describe this twisting of truth might be, “lying to God”. After all, lying is the opposite of truth.
So, where does this sinful lying to God lead us to?
“[T]heir own destruction” (v. 16).
So, how can we tell when we (or someone we love) are walking (living) in sin?
Do you remember that the act of repentance consists of two parts? Confession and “striving” with everything we have (v. 14).
A hint for us that we are living in sin is that our repentance is uncomplete. We may have only confessed our past sins, but haven’t matured in grace to understand that we must also confess that our very hearts are selfish and rebellious.
Or, maybe we have completed the first two pieces of the puzzle that make up confession, but we aren’t “striving to be found by Him at peace, without spot or blemish”.
Remember that the “striving” Peter references is “black and white”. Its either all in or all out. There is no “gray area”.
Therefore, this complete devotion to be blameless before God is not present in the heart of anyone who is not removing all known temptations in their lives.
- If we confess getting drunk, but don’t dump our alcohol, repentance is not complete.
- If we confess our struggle with gossip, but watch soap operas all day, we’re probably not “striving” in the sense that Peter encourages us.
- If we confess that we have sex with our girlfriend/boyfriend and will not live separately until we are married, our repentance probably is not complete.
- If we confess a porn addiction, but still keep pornography in the house or won’t seek accountability with our internet access, we’re not “striving” in the sense that Peter encourages us.
Therefore, when we are not “striving” with everything we have to attack known stumbling blocks in our lives, we are the very ones that peter is referring to who are ignoring, unstable, and lawless (who distort reality to make slavery to sin feel peaceful).
That presents some of us with a very severe ultimatum that leaves us looking down the “road of peace” with apprehension and fear.
Maybe we understand the general process now, but can’t think straight to take the first step.
The first step is always prostrating ourselves at the feet of Jesus in humility. Not just confessing our sin, but also that we don’t even have any hope in ourselves to take the next step without him showing us how and, even carrying us, down the “road of peace”.
Don’t let the devil scare you by focusing your eyes on the difficulty of the road. Stay in the present and keep your eyes on the one who is carrying you and remember that He is the savior of the world.
So, Peter’s call to “strive” (wholeheartedly) is easier than distorting reality to make sin comfortable, because the effort given is not our own, but Christ’s.
Please remember, Peter is admonishing us to trust in God’s grace for us as the first, and last, step we ever need take down this “road of peace”.
Practical applications for learning how to “Give Your Best Effort, Effortlessly”:
- Learn about the character and strength of God by reading the gospels of the New Testament.
- Learn how to pray by reading The Psalms, located in the middle of the bible. The Psalms are also helpful because they show us how others, biblical characters that we know God loved, go through trials and sufferings. We benefit from reading how they cried out to God.
- Make friends with others who also seek to grow in their understanding of Grace. This is typically done by participating in church. When selecting a church, two traits stick out among the rest as essential.
- The church believes that The Bible is inspired by God, and that there are no mistakes in this book as it was originally written.
- The second is that the family of believers believes that Jesus Christ is part of the tri-un (trinity) God-head, and that we can only be saved through him. Which is what this entire message is about! J
- Can you believe in God without attending church? Obviously, but as Jesus notes, “even the demons” believe in God.
- The better question would be, “Can I give my all (do my very best) to follow Christ and learn about God’s grace for me and not participate in church?
- The answer is, again, obvious. “No”. This also does not mean that we should measure our spiritual maturity by how many services they attend per week. It simply means that God wants us to be looking for relationships and activities that challenge us in our growth in His grace.
- Lastly, talk to God. Prayer shouldn’t be focused on the pretty words that adorn the heart of our prayer, even though I imagine God appreciates them as well, but focusing on sharing the depths of our hearts with God. This usually takes time and silent reflection in between phrases and sentences.