There are few places more lonely than my living room after a fight with my wife. With Kathy sadly quarantined to the bedroom and the kids down for a nap, I’m left to “stew in the grease” of my big mouth…again.
I wish that this was one of those golden newlywed “remember when…” stories that the maritally mature dispense on young, inexperienced couples after having outgrown such childish behavior. How could I act that way…again? How could I have said something so stupid…again? Now I’m sitting on my oversized couch in my unlit living room, once again attempting to atone for my sin by pounding the proverbial backside of my conscience with a giant paddle of condemnation?
“Again? Seriously? When are you going to learn? If you were a real man of God, this wouldn’t be happening again. Way to go pastor-man!”
Again. I hate that word when applied to my sin. Why can’t I seem to learn the first time? Why do I keep returning to my sin like a dog to his…you get the point. Why?
While I’m usually tempted to indict any number of circumstances as the cause for my sharp tongue — a sleepness night before, my insubordinate little brood that drove me to the edge of insanity earlier that morning, or the fact that I hadn’t had my morning cup of coffee — the Bible offers a different explanation.
NEARSIGHTED AND BLIND
In the opening paragraphs of his second letter, Peter offers a list of “qualities” that are necessary for an effective and fruitful life:
“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).
But what about those times when our lives are characterized by anything but these qualities? Peter says,
“Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins (1:9b).”
We are a myopic people who suffer from a “near-sightedness” that leads to spiritual blindness (v.9a). In fact, the word used by Peter here refers to the act “squinting” or “blinking.” When you and I squint, we become blind to that which is far off and can only focus on those things that are immediately in front of us.
In other words, spiritual blindness comes when we grow so consumed with and controlled by our present circumstances that we forget the future promises of God granted to us through the person and work of Christ (see 2 Peter 1:2-4).
Notice that Peter did not say that the root issue was their “quiet times.” He does not scold them for a lack of personal discipline or will-power. He actually doesn’t mention their habits at all because our fundamental problem is not one of doing, but of believing.
Why were the men in Matthew 6 anxious? According to Jesus, they were men of “little faith (v. 30).” Why were the disciples so consumed with fear on the boat in Matthew 8 when a storm was tossing them around? According to Jesus, they were men of “little faith (v. 26)” In Luke’s account of this event, Jesus asks his disciples, “Where is your faith (Luke 8:24)?” It had gone missing! Why could the disciples not cast out the demon from the child in Mark 9? Because, according the Jesus, they were a “faithless generation (v.19).”
Food and clothing was not the issue. Rowing techniques were not the issue. Demon-casting-out strategies were not the issue. The issue was not doing, but believing. And in each instance, unbelief was marked by forgetfulness. Forgetting that God cares (Matt 6). Forgetting that Jesus (not us) is sovereign over all things, both physical (Matt 8, Luke 9) and spiritual (Mark 9).
“Spiritual blindness comes when we grow so consumed with and controlled by our present circumstances that we forget the future promises of God granted to us through the person and work of Christ.”
In the same way, our own sin is fundamentally rooted in unbelief characterized by forgetfulness. Gospel forgetfulness.
Therefore, all Christian discipleship revolves around gospel-reminding.
THE MINISTRY OF GOSPEL REMINDING
Peter is nearing the end of his life (v. 14). His focus has narrowed and intensified since his days with Jesus. There is one thing to which he is fervently committed: reminding Christians of the gospel.
“I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and and are established in the truth that you have (v.12).”
Peter mentioned three stages of Christian growth: (1) knowing (2) being established (3) remembering. What a staggering thought! Knowledgeable and established Christians always need to be reminded of the gospel! Always.
“Knowledgeable and established Christians always need to be reminded of the gospel!”
In fact, remembering the gospel has been the burden of God’s people throughout redemptive history.
In Deuteronomy, God continually commands Israel to “remember”. Remember what, exactly? They need to remember that they are a people conceived and brought forth by the sovereign grace of their Redeemer! They were former slaves redeemed by the power of God (Deut. 5:15; 15:15; 16:12; 24:18, 22).
Whenever God’s people forgot that they were saved by grace, their self-righteousness and sense of entitlement led them into sin and they would fail to fulfill their purpose as ambassadors of God’s kingdom to the nations.
The same is true for God’s people today.
Paul’s prescription for the sinful patterns in the Corinthian church (see chapters 1-14) was anything but behavioral! Instead, he writes, “Now I would remind you of the gospel I preached to you (1 Cor. 15:1).” How did Paul encourage unity in the church? He exhorts them to “remember” that while they were once “alienated” from God, his people, and his promises, “having no hope…in the world,” they had been “brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:11-12).”
Likewise, Jude — the half-brother of Jesus — commits himself to the ministry of gospel-reminding: “Now I want to remind you, although you once knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe (Jude 5).”
“Who we are and what we have been given by God through the life, death, resurrection, rule, and return of Jesus is the all-encompassing paradigm for our lives, from the magnificent to the mundane.”
For the biblical authors, the gospel of Jesus Christ was so much more than the entry point to the Christian life! Rather, who we are and what we have been given by God through the life, death, resurrection, rule, and return of Jesus is the all-encompassing paradigm for our lives, from the magnificent to the mundane.
I pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be the all-consuming passion at the center of our discipleship and the very power of God by which we grow together as a gospel-reminding, Jesus-resembling people.
Agree? Disagree? Offer your thoughts in the comments below.
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