Have you ever been in one of those awkward situations where someone is repeating themselves and you aren’t quite sure how to act? Do you just act like it’s the first time, do you say “You said that already?” You know, like when I repeated that announcement just now. And you all just though I was losing my mind, right? Peter repeats himself three times in this short passage but he’s not losing his mind either, there is good reason for what he is doing.
So how would you say you are doing this morning? Fine. Yeah, but, really? Do you have your world by the tail or does your world seem to have you? As I sometimes say, are you just hanging on to the world by the grass? Do you feel like there are things going on that seem out of your control or you can’t figure out how to change or fix? Maybe there are things in you, habits, issues, you seem powerless to control. Maybe you are dealing with some physical or health issues, illness, pain, cancer. Maybe there are some things in your relationships or in your marriage that don’t seem right but you don’t know what to do, you feel powerless to change. Maybe somethings with your kids. Kids are a huge challenge, they have a way of pushing us past our pay grade, past our abilities and wisdom. How about at work, on the job, at the office? Things could be different or better, but how? You can’t seem to get a handle on it. And how about our world. Yikes, the headlines and breaking news stories just keep getting crazier and crazier. Things seem to be spiraling out of control and all kinds of smart people have all kinds of conflicting ideas. Trade wars and war wars. The stock market. Milk prices down, but other commodity prices are up. Do you feel powerless, weak, uncertain, foolish? Or where you just fine until I started talking, but now not so much? Is ignorance bliss?
What if Easter is really just the world’s biggest April Fool’s Day joke? What if is all just a big lie? What if the really smart people in the world are right? What if Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan and Bill Nye the Science Guy are all right and there is no one out there and there is nothing after death? What if John Lennon was right and there is no heaven above us, but only sky? What if Karl Marx was right, that religion is just the opiate of the people, something dreamed up to make us feel better and take away the fear of death? What if the opioid crisis in American is Christianity? Paul raises that question in I Corinthians 15:12-19 and says if Christ is not raised from the dead then we are all fools and our faith is in vain.
In my last three sermons on II Peter I have highlighted Peter’s emphasis on the importance of the knowledge of God. Through the knowledge of God grace and peace are multiplied to us. Through the knowledge of God His power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Through the knowledge of God we supplement our faith so we are not ineffective and unfruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see how important this knowledge is and what a difference it makes in our lives in the deaths of two famous men in the past month. Contrast Billy Graham to Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking was said to be a genius, a brilliant mind, a theoretical physicist working in the realm of cosmology and quantum mechanics. He studied the universe and yet he didn’t know the creator of the universe, being a self-avowed atheist. Is there anything more tragic than to never acknowledged the God who went to such lengths to make Himself known (Romans 1:19-23)? Give thanks to God who has revealed Himself to us in the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Would you be willing to agree that what we think about God is the very highest hill on which we should be willing to die? In other words, our view of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the most important battle we should ever fight? Every other battle or debate or dispute is secondary to who God is and what He is like and what He does. History seems to bear this out because the biggest battles waged in the early church centered around the nature of God and the divinity and humanity of the Son of God. There were other battles but none this big and none that had two major creeds written almost exclusively about them, the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. While we don’t like conflict and battles in the church there are some battles that must be fought and far from hurting the church, they actually protect the church and make it stronger. They are like a refiner’s fire, that purifies and clarifies and unities the church around the truth. When humans take up the battle of clarifying who God is and what He is like we have to admit we are jumping into the deep end of the pool and we have to be careful and humble about what we are doing. God as He is in Himself is a holy mystery. We are creatures and God is the Creator. His ways and His thoughts are as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth. God in His essence is utterly and absolutely incomprehensible and beyond all human senses and wisdom. When we try to talk about the Trinity, our human language stains on the edges to explain this very great mystery. It is hard enough to grasp, and even harder to explain. We understand and know in part, but not in whole. We cannot know Him fully and eternity will not be long enough to fathom the depths or scale the heights of God. But while we cannot know Him fully or in His fullness, we can know Him and we can know Him truly. We can because God desires for us to know Him and He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known in creation and in the special revelation of Himself in His Son and in His Word. From Scripture we can learn that God is one God in divine essence and three distinct persons. Furthermore we can learn that God in the three persons of His being is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that the Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Our texts and many like them are some of the most difficult in Scripture. Let’s see what we can take away from them.
Every Sunday we gather here for worship with our minds and hearts filled with the concerns and challenges of the past week and the week ahead. We live our days filled with temporal concerns. Our daily bread and daily needs consume our thoughts and our time and our energies. But how are we different from non-Christians? Are they not also anxious about their days and their lives and livelihoods? As Christians we are called to a higher calling, we are called to live in two worlds at once, to have a foot in two countries, to have one eye on temporal things and one eye on eternal things. The challenge, the goal, is to attend to the temporal things of our lives our eyes and minds fixed on eternal things. Jesus did this while He took on human form and walked this earth.
Now I know how Donald Trump feels after giving a speech and all the fact checkers come along. Yes, I do know its 2018. I hope that doesn’t make me a false teacher, just a fallible pastor. Actually the people who corrected me were doing a good thing. If pastor’s can’t be corrected then the church is in danger. No less an apostle than Paul submitted to being corrected by the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who examined the Scriptures daily to see if the things Paul said were true. A few years later Paul was in Ephesus speaking to the elders of the church he planted there.