Over the past week, I have watched and listened to the news and have noticed that our American news reports are more about social networks, than about what is happening in the world. Determined to know what is going on globally, I brought up websites like bbc.com/news, Aljazeera.com, and allafrica.com to balance what I saw from US sources. I learned that there is a sex scandal in Seoul, continuing struggles with Brexit in the UK, a seaweed infestation at Mexico’s beaches, a dispute about Rwanda’s human rights report, and very different views on whether the Arab peace initiative for Palestine and Israel will see any success. What did all these issues have in common with all the scuttle on social media and the US news media? They were all about conflicts, which is how the news media makes money, (in addition to reporting on gossip and unsavory items). No disputes, no news. Since life today seems to revolve around conflict, it’s no wonder that we’re stressed out and always trying to escape from it with entertainment, food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, online games, sex, and, well, you name it. But these are temporary distractions; where do we find true refuge?
Peter offers hope for believers in the second coming of Christ. He reminds us that politics, the stock market, homes, beauty, health, success, children, and ideas about popularity will be burned up at any time. But, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13) Christ’s return and the ensuing events are not good news for those whose faith is in people and politics to make a better world since this world is corrupt and broken beyond the ability to be fixed. It must be destroyed. A better one is coming, a perfect one in which we will live with perfect righteousness and peace. To that, we say Hallelujah! In the meantime, though, we live in this broken, corrupt world; although it is not our spiritual reality, it is our context and physical reality now. Paul Tripp writes: “Discouragement focuses more on the broken glories of creation than it does on the restoring glories of God’s character, presence and promises…God knows what you too are facing. He sees well the brokenness that is all around you. He is not in a panic, wondering how he’ll ever pull off his plan with all these obstacles in the way. Don’t be discouraged. God has you exactly where he wants you. He knows just how he will use what makes you afraid in order to build your faith.” (1)
The apostle Peter’s solution to the conflicts we face until the new earth comes with Jesus’s second incarnation is this, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14) Wait, how are we to be without any imperfection and at peace in this world? When we combine Peter’s exhortation with Tripp’s statement we realize that the best fear is that which focuses on our tendencies toward sin and ungodly attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. These we can control, or at least confess, asking God to help us begin to work on them. It’s crucial that we hold onto this idea because “blamelessness” is challenging, and we might misinterpret this idea if we don’t read carefully. For example, Matthew Henry writes: “Never expect to be found at that day of God in peace, if you are lazy and idle in this your day, in which we must finish the work given us to do. Only the diligent Christian will be the happy Christian in the day of the Lord.” (2) If we know the man and his theology, we know that he is not suggesting our ability to be perfect in this life. We can quickly go off-track here and must be careful to remember our role in Jesus return, which is precisely the same role in his first incarnation—that of a passive recipient. Lately, some people have asked me if I subscribe to the idea that everyone on earth must hear the gospel before Christ will return. My answer is that although we are called to reach out to all the world with the gospel, we have no control over Jesus’s second incarnation, it is a work of God. (See Mark 13:32-33)
There is only one way for Christians to grow in holiness and to be “without spot and blemish,” and that is through confession and repentance of our sins. The grace of personal confession is a gift that results in our peace with God and leads us to be peacemakers with others. Sanctification is a work of God that requires our cooperation. John Gill offers this helpful commentary: “[It] should be the concern of all that look for the glorious things here spoken of…enjoying that peace of conscience which he himself gives, and which flows from his blood, righteousness, and atonement…they will look for these things with great delight and satisfaction: in peace one with another; for peace makers and keepers are called the children of God, and so heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…sanctification is imperfect, and many are the slips and falls of the saints, though their desire is to be harmless and inoffensive, and to give no just occasion for blame or scandal.” (3) We proactively work to crush our sin by the Spirit’s power and live the new life Christ has given us. The Holy Spirit helps us to confront our hearts, recognize our idols, and our own difficulties in our relationships at home, work, church, and in the community. He gives us the desire to humble ourselves and empowers us to be holier today than we were yesterday. “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:20-22)
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Paul offers this encouragement: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Our perfectly faithful God will sanctify us completely, in our whole being to be perfect. If we truly embrace this truth, we will not shrink back from confronting our sin. Instead, we will employ the Spirit’s power in us to fight it with all our strength by acknowledging our sin in confession, asking the Lord to give us the ability to change (repent)–no matter how many times it takes over many days, weeks, months, or even years. Only then will we be blameless in the Lord’s eyes, by not accepting or “giving permission” for sin to in our thoughts, emotions, bodies, words, actions, or choices. Peace through confession leads to soul cleansing that supplies our joy in the Lord, releasing us from the guilt that will otherwise enslave us, the way news headlines color our world with broken images and stressful information. What might you need to confess today, for greater peace?
(1) Tripp, Paul David, “New Morning Mercies,” June 25, Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2014.
(2) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” 2 Peter 3:24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/2peter-3.html
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 2 Peter 3:14, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2peter-3.html