The objective of this lesson: (1) To stress the fact that in every age Christians should expect discouragement. (2) Some of the most disheartening discouragement will come from other Christians.
I have been encouraging and providing people insights for fifty plus years. When people talk with me the first time, I often fail to ask them an important question: "What are you expecting?" Like many of you, I find a primary fact true: What people expect determines (a) how they listen and (b) their attitude. When a person's expectations are misfocused, his or her reactions frequently result in some form of personal discouragement.
Use an example of Christian discouragement that comes from personal experience or accurate personal knowledge. Be certain not to embarrass another person.
Many first century Christians falsely expected Jesus Christ to return quickly (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2). In this Thessalonians' statement, Paul indicated spirits, messages, and writings declared Jesus Christ's return had already occurred. Even John in Revelation depicted souls of martyrs under a heavenly altar asking God why He is waiting to avenge their deaths (Revelation 6:9-11).
In the first century as Christianity established itself as a viable choice/lifestyle, Satan's opposition was fierce. There were serious attacks on the core of Christianity--such as attacks on Jesus' resurrection or return.
The questions, "Has Jesus Christ already returned?" or "Why is God waiting so long to send Jesus Christ back?" are almost as old as the beginning of Christianity. (Paul's answer was, "Not until ... [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. Peter's answer is found in his statement: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" [2 Peter 3:9]). God's investment in our salvation is enormous! He even wants the rebellious and wicked to repent! Consider the parables of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the disloyal steward (Luke 16:1-13), and the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15). Obviously, God does not look at situations as we do.
If Jesus' return could be successfully attacked, there was no reason to trust anything Jesus said. Please note the responses focused (1) on God's nature and (2) God's value system. Christians make a huge mistake when they assume God is some form of "super human" and that God's values are human values rather than divine values.
In every age, those who dare to be Christians encounter opposition--even in the first century! Spiritual discouragement is not unique to 21st century Christians! Even some of the first Christians were so discouraged they longed for relief! Peter wrote to discouraged Christians! His second writing was to stir their memory.
A serious mistake is made when Christians decide everything will be fine for them physically because they belong to God in Christ. If Christians think all will be exactly as they wish physically because God is superior to Satan, they open a major avenue into their lives to temptation. In the physical world there is evil. In the spiritual world to come evil will not be existent. God will eliminate the existence of evil through judgment. As long as we live in this physical world, we will experience opposition and discouragement just as did the physical Jesus (consider such scriptures as Matthew 26:37, 38; John 11:33; 13:21). We seek a place where those who live by faith belong in the awareness that place will never be in our physical world (consider Hebrews 11:13-16).
An important part of countering discouragement was remembering. Remembering what? (1) Remembering God's plans were confirmed by the prophets (the writers of what we call the Old Testament--which was the scripture that most first century Christians used). (2) Remembering Jesus Christ's commandments declared through the apostles.
Christians do not regret what they left. They regret that those who follow God live in the discouragement of this physical existence. They remember physical existence always has discouraged people who follow God. Physical existence is not a friend to people who live by faith.
Peter wanted his readers to know discouragement was to be expected. There would be Christians who lived to satisfy their physical desires. There would be Christians asking questions calculated to discourage believers: "Why has Jesus Christ not come back? (Has he abandoned you? Does he not keep his promises?) Everything is just the same--the world has not changed! (Should things not be different because of Jesus' influence and teachings?)"
Discouragement always will find a way to attack the faith of believers. The tactics of discouragement are too numerous to list. It seeks to attack your reason for continuing to place faith in Jesus Christ, your reason for persistently being a person who lives by faith in Jesus Christ, or making you regret the prices you must pay to continue to let your faith in Christ be the core of your life.
Peter said these discouragers did not consider everything. I presume Peter's context from the end of chapter 2 continues. When Christians are the source of discouragement to Christians, the impact of the discouragement increases! The discouragers did not consider the fact that God destroyed the world by water. God proved He can destroy His creation! God's warning that a destruction of this world by fire is coming must be taken seriously. Ungodliness will not prevail!
Countering discouragement in Christian existence ultimately depends on the Christian's understanding of God. In Peter's situation, he urged Christians to realize that God's destruction of that which he made was continuing evidence of God's willingness to destroy His creation again in order to destroy evil. God despises evil! Godlessness has perverted all God made! God will not allow godlessness to use His creation indefinitely! Consider Paul's statement in Romans 8:18-25.
The concept of "kept for the day of judgment" is a reoccurring theme in 2 Peter. The same concept is used in regard to wicked angels (2:4); in regard to the unrighteous (2:9); and possibly in regard to discouraging Christians speaking empty promises (2:17, 19).
No matter how things look at any moment, ultimately God will not permit ungodliness to have victory over godliness. God knows how to bring ungodliness into judgment. Judgment is inescapable for the ungodly!
Just as God revealed Jesus on earth as Savior (1:16-18), God will reveal Jesus to earth again in preparation for the judgment (3:7 in its context). The ungodly Christians who advance their lustful desires and discourage those who place their confidence in Christ will be held accountable for their destructive acts and attitudes.
The resurrected Jesus is Lord now (Acts 2:36) and will continue as Lord until all God's enemies (including death) are defeated (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
In every age there are people who exploit God's grace expressed in kind forgiveness. There is a vast difference between depending on God's grace and attempting to exploit God's grace to advance physical desires. When anyone depends on God's grace, he or she (1) believes Jesus came from God, (2) believes Jesus came to earth to do God's will, (3) believes Jesus is a human's access to God, (4) trusts God's accomplishments in Jesus' death (atonement for our sins; redemption from our wickedness; the power of permanent forgiveness), (5) trusts God's accomplishments in Jesus' resurrection (the total defeat of death seen (a) in God's power to restore life after death occurs, and (b) in the power to sustain the new existence), and (6) believes access to this new existence is available to everyone who places his or her confidence in God through Jesus Christ. That dependence expresses itself in obedient commitment to a lifestyle defined by God and consistent with God's character.
A person exploits grace when he/she seeks to justify an indulgence of physical desires rather than repent. A person depends on God's grace when he/she seeks godly existence through the redirection of life which involves repentance. The person who believes he/she can justify physical indulgence and maintain access to God's grace deceives only himself/herself. He/she who places trust in God's accomplishments in Jesus' death and resurrection instead of his/her accomplishments maintains access to God's grace.
Seeking to exploit God's grace is a conscious effort (1) to demean God, (2) to take advantage of the faith of those who trust God, (3) or both. In one of numerous ways, it is the deliberate attempt to have God's kind blessings while justifying living for physical indulgence or/and physical ambitions. It claims to belong to God while living for one's own godless agenda. Such existence specializes in deception. God holds such people in contempt.
To conclude a person can live by indulging his/her physical desires and remain in God's kindness and goodness involves the impossible attempt to deceive God. God is offended that such a person has such a low view of Him and that a person believes he/she can take advantage of Him. God has no respect for the person who has no respect for Him--even if the person claims to follow Him!
Because God values people, never think you can deceive God.
The fact that God is incredibly kind does not mean God is gullible!
For Thought and Discussion
This discussion should include this truth: a person's expectations commonly form the foundation of his/her anticipations. I often expect from you what I want. The more my focus is on me, the less I notice you.
This discussion should include their common expectation that (1) Jesus had come or (2) would come shortly. Consider 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5. Either conviction could cause them grief, anxiety, or irresponsible behavior.
This discussion should include the fact that good from God and evil from Satan will always be in opposition.
This discussion should focus on the fact that there have always been false prophets.
This discussion should include the fact the God knows how to keep His opponents for judgment. Judgment is more a matter of sentencing than determining one's guilt or innocence. Opponents of God will be eternally accountable for their choices. Those in Christ are forgiven.
This discussion should include the understanding that the person who depends on God's grace trusts His accomplishments in Jesus' death and resurrection rather than his/her accomplishments in service and obedience. The one who trusts God's grace:
This discussion should include an understanding that such a person seeks to take advantage of God's kindness and goodness by justifying his/her own physical desires.
This discussion should include the awareness that such people mistake God's kindness and goodness for gullibility. Consider Galatians 6:7, 8.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 12
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