Share This Episode
Growing in Grace Doug Agnew Logo

Hope in the Horror

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
November 28, 2022 1:00 am

Hope in the Horror

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 453 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

November 28, 2022 1:00 am

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit


Turn with me, if you will, in your Bibles to 2 Peter. We're continuing our journey through this book.

We're in chapter 2. We'll be looking tonight at verses 4 through 10. 2 Peter 2, beginning with verse 4. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell, and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment, if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of again gladly, if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly, and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked, for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Let's pray together. Gracious Father, we are struck by the ungodliness of the world around us, and yet when we look honestly at your word, we are struck by our own sin and rebellion. Though you have loved us and called us to yourself, you have regenerated us and made us your child, yet we often, as rebellious children, go our own way and choose the way of the world. Father grant us, as we look at your word tonight, a grace to follow you, to pursue you, to long above everything else, to know you. You may be glorified in us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, amen.

May be seated. Martin Lloyd-Jones says that of all the chapters we find in Scripture, this second chapter of Peter's letter is among the most terrible. For threatening, for warning, for the idea of doom and disaster and destruction, there is nowhere in holy writ anything which surpasses this particular chapter. Just listen to some of the words and phrases that Peter uses in this chapter, too.

He speaks of destructive heresies, swift destruction, truth blasphemed, condemnation and destruction, cast into hell, chains of gloomy darkness, turned to ashes, the judgment, condemned to extinction, blots and blemishes, deceptions, the gloom of utter darkness, slaves of corruption, defilements of the world, entangled and overcome. As I was preparing this week and looking at this passage, I was struck by the parallels between much of the Old Testament history of God's people and what we see in our day in America. And I was tempted to want to go after this in a way of looking at how terrible things really are around us and what we may be facing as God's people in a land that has turned its back on God.

And yet, as I studied and looked at this, I was driven to recognize my own depravity, my own self-centeredness, my own rebellion and disobedience. And so as we look at this passage tonight and we look at the ungodliness of the world around us, at our own failure and foolishness, we find that Peter gives hope and comfort and encouragement in the midst of all this sin and evil. As I studied this, I was made acutely aware of my own bent toward sin, of my rebellion and disobedience toward God, how great an offense I am at times to God, how deserving I am of judgment, but how great is His love. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, I paraphrase it and make it personal, I was dead in my trespasses and sins. I was a child of wrath, but God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved me, has made me alive even when I was dead in my sins, made me alive together with Christ.

By grace, I'm saved. And so as we look at this text tonight, we begin by remembering from last time the closing phrase of verse 3, speaking of the false teachers, Peter says, their condemnation from long ago is not idle and their destruction is not asleep. Judgment of sin and evil is certain. God will not overlook evil.

He will not overlook sin. And you know, we often, we think of the gospel in terms of the good news and it is that. But there's another side of that coin as well, probably one of the most familiar verses in all of scriptures, John 3.16, for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Paul put it like this in his writing to the Romans. He spoke of the fact that he's not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, Jew first and also the Greek. He says that in that gospel is revealed the righteousness of God for faith. But then he goes on in the next verse and says also that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. In the greatest act and expression of God's love at Calvary, God reveals not only His love but also what He thinks of sin and how He deals with sin. For those who reject the gospel, who follow false teaching, there is in the gospel the revelation of God's certain judgment of sin and evil.

John in the closing verse of chapter 3 says, for whoever believes on the Son has eternal life, but whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him. And so as Peter continues in chapter 2 here, he shares three illustrations of God's judgment on sin and evil. There's a recurring word that is a clue to what he's pointing out here as he says in verse 4, if God did not spare angels, verse 5, if He did not spare the ancient world, verse 6, if by turning Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes He condemned them. If then arguments or what one writer has called the workhorse of logic, deductive logic, these are conditional arguments or the technical word is hypothetical syllogisms.

If this is true, then this is true. If then, and that's what we have here as Peter goes through and he has many ifs but there's only one then because there's only one God who is acting in all of this. So let's begin by looking at these conditional statements, the illustrations of judgment. First of all, in verse 4 it says, if God did not spare angels when they sinned, cast them into hell. This first illustration takes place in heaven. The rebellious angels were cast out, cast into hell. The word there in the Greek is not the typical word for hell.

It's a word that's borrowed from Greek mythology. The people of Peter's day understood this word to be speaking of the lowest level of hell, the deepest hell. In fact, one Greek writer said that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so deep is Tartarus, this hell that he's speaking of below the earth. These rebellious angels were cast into the deepest hell. And so he speaks of them being committed to chains of gloomy darkness.

Other versions speak of pits, dungeons, everlasting darkness. Now they are kept until the judgment. I think he's pointing here to the final judgment. We're not told why it is that some of these fallen angels are allowed to roam the earth and disrupt our lives. Some are cast and kept into chains.

We don't know why that is. But we do know this, according to Revelation chapter 20 verse 10, they will all be tormented day and night forever and ever in the lake of fire. So they're ultimately going to all end up in the judgment that Peter points to here. But for the meantime, we have to deal with some of them here on earth as they torment and seek to disrupt God's people. But God did not spare the angels in heaven, and he did not spare the ungodly when he brought a flood on the ancient world. In verse 5, Peter says that God brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.

Move now from heaven to earth. And here God is dealing with sin and evil on the earth. God's judgment not only falls on men and angels, it also destroys the world of the ungodly, he says. This word here is the word cosmos, which speaks of that world system that is in the grip of Satan and sin and evil. We see this from the very Garden of Eden on, the whole creation is under a curse because of man's sin.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 8, he says, we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Of course, when God destroyed the world, he didn't make Noah and his family suddenly sinless. They went right back to their involvement in sin, they were suffered under temptation, and they still lived in a fallen world and were subject to the consequence of man's sin. They went right back into that sinfulness that is so a part of life in this fallen world, a world that is opposed to God, that continues its rebellion against God, and is still seductive to our fallen nature.

We're lured by it and drawn by it. And how quickly our sinful nature just traverses that slippery slope and slides into reparation and degradation, thinking about the history of our own nation. God in many times moves in judgment and acts to bring people back to himself, and yet we quickly turn away from that. Thinking back over the history of America in the 18th and 19th centuries, we heard this morning in our Sunday school lesson from Jonathan Edwards, God used him in the first half of the 18th century to bring a sweeping revival that spread all across the eastern seaboard and the 13 colonies of that time, and God just brought a great revival that swept the whole nation.

Then again in the 19th century, there was a great movement of prayer that started up in New York and spread as far as, I know one out-breaking of that went all the way to Iowa and it spread all across America, and then of course there was a great revival among the soldiers during the Civil War. God brought great revival in both those centuries, the early years of America. Then we hit the 20th century and all the post-millennialists got a rude awakening, didn't they, when this world that was supposed to be getting better and better, all of a sudden we had two world wars and just unbelievable inhumanity to man, and we should expect this, shouldn't we? Our Lord Himself declared that the world would be like the days of Noah before his return. I didn't know we were going to read that passage from the New Testament tonight, but that's exactly what our Lord said, that that indifference toward the things of God was a part of Noah's day and it's a part of the world in which we live today. Not only that, we are fast approaching the reprobation of Sodom and Gomorrah. That's the next illustration that Peter uses here when he says in verse 6 that if by turning Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what was going to happen to the ungodly. For those of you who, like me, were born in the first half of the 20th century, some of us, you know, getting on in years, we are seasoned saints, but we are amazed really at the extent and speed of the moral change that has taken place since 1950. It's breathtaking and it has gotten faster in recent years.

But think about it. Things that were just unthinkable, even unheard of in my childhood, have become not only condoned but promoted in our day. The sexual revolution of the 1960s first began by making fornication an adultery acceptable thing. And then we developed no-fault divorce and marriage became disposable.

You just don't like this partner, you get rid of that one, go to another one. And then marriage itself has now been redefined as the whole same-sex attraction ceased to be considered unnatural and sinful, and the Supreme Court has declared that laws against homosexual marriage are unconstitutional. Today, not only is there no standard regarding sexual orientation, marriage, those kinds of things, but we're even told that identifying a child as male or female at birth is a form of child abuse, that we should let children decide for themselves whether they're a boy or a girl or something in between called gender fluid. We are denying reality.

We've gotten to the point in America where Children's Story Hour in the libraries is being led by drag queens reading about homosexuality and transgenderism. And look back at the text and what Peter says in verse 6. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were turned to ashes.

God condemned them to extinction. Peter speaks of the sensual conduct of the wicked. You remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham interceded for Lot and for those whom God might find that were righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels went there to rescue Lot and his family, and Lot invited them into his home. The men of the city were so driven by their sexual passion that they came and demanded that Lot let them have those men that they might know them.

Lot resisted this, and the Genesis account says that they were so wicked in their passion, so driven by that, that when Lot refused their demand, they pressed hard and drew near to break the door open. We haven't quite reached that level of debauchery in America today that I know of, and yet the conduct of our culture is definitely sensual in nature, is it not? God's standards have been rejected. Sinful passions are exalted. We are in a really bad time in the world today. Things are upside down to us. Good is called bad. Bad is called good. But you know, with God, there is always the silver lining, there's always the upside.

I remember the words of William Cowper, the hen rider, he said, behind the crowd is always a smiling providence. God has promised that he is at work in everything for our good. And as our world descends into moral degradation, to sexual perversion, even the denial of reality, God's people stand out. Those who are his become evident, they are manifest, the distinction is clear. And so just as we see in our day this distinction that becomes clearer and clearer, so was this the case with Noah and with Lot. The righteous were set apart. In Genesis chapter 6, we read of the great wickedness that arose throughout the earth, and yet in the midst of all that evil, Scripture says that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah and his family were set apart for God's glory. The earth was full of violence and corruption, but God revealed himself and his plans to Noah. And so while everyone else pursued their own devices, Scripture says that Noah did all that God commanded him. Noah was obedient to God.

In fact, Hebrews tells us in that famous faith chapter, chapter 11, that by faith Noah in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteous that comes by faith. When God's people walk in obedience to God, when they are faithful to him, they stand out.

They are distinct from the culture, from the ways of the world around us. This was true even of Lot. Lot stood against the wickedness of the culture in Sodom. In the account in Genesis 19, we're told that when the men demanded to have relations with the angels that had come into his home, Lot went out to the men at the entrance and shut the door after him and said, I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. He not only stood against the evil around him, he also called his family to obey God. In verse 14 of chapter 19 in Genesis, it says, Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters, get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.

We who are God's, who belong to him, are set apart not only by our obedience to God but also by our response to the culture around us. Look at how Noah and Lot responded to what was going on in their day. Noah preached righteousness to the wicked men of his day. Peter calls him a herald of righteousness. Noah proclaimed the truth of God and what God was about to do and the judgment that was to come. But notice that Noah's obedience in proclaiming the righteousness of God was not dependent on results. 120 years of preaching and how many converts did he have?

Not one. It reminds me of Isaiah in chapter 6 when Isaiah had his vision of God and he heard the cherubim crying, holy, holy, holy. God cleansed him and he heard God speak and say, who will go for us? And Isaiah says, here am I, send me. And God sends him and tells him what to preach and he says, how long, Lord? And God says, until it's all laid waste.

Not when you're going to have success in your preaching. But Noah was obedient. And then there's Lot. We don't often associate Lot with righteousness, do we? He chose, though, to move towards Sodom and Gomorrah, to live in the fertile valley. So we have had these Sunday school lessons as children.

We were taught about the dangers of making wrong choices and pursuing material possessions, things like that. But the Bible says of Lot that he lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. And so he pursued wealth and position. And yet Peter tells us that he was greatly distressed by the central conduct of the wicked. Lot was somehow in God's estimate of things, in God's decree, he was righteous.

And Scripture calls him righteous Lot here in this letter of Peter. So as we look at these illustrations, it's a pretty bleak picture, isn't it? The world of the Old Testament and our world today, this kind of parallels.

And this is concerning, it's disconcerting. Part of the thing that we see in this is the way that God's people responded to the world around them. And it makes me wonder, how do I respond to the world around me? All that's going on with everything that's happening in America, how am I really responding in my heart and in my actions toward that?

I remember the words of Francis Schaeffer who years ago said, there would come a time in America when we would accept any kind of leadership so long as we maintained our own personal peace and prosperity. How are we responding to the world around us? That's a concerning thing, but what is even more disconcerting is what I see when I take an honest look in the mirror of God's Word. I see my own bent toward sin, my own weakness in standing against the tide of the culture and the world, my vulnerability to the wiles of the devil. But thank God in this letter that the if-clauses are not conclusive, there is the then of verse 9. If God did not spare angels, if he did not spare the ancient world, if by turning Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, then the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. The other side of that is if God preserved Noah and if he rescued Lot, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly.

The righteous are rescued, the unjust are punished. Noah was preserved and God was the actor. God was the one who revealed himself to Noah, told him what was about to happen, and told him how to avoid what was coming, the judgment that was coming.

And yet, as Paul writes in Philippians 2, we are to work out our own salvation. Noah had to build that ark. Can you imagine being told to build an ark?

Just the mere, the massive proportions of that are astounding. But even more so, I mean, he'd never seen a flood. The earth was not watered by rain in his early days, it was watered by a mist. He didn't know what a flood was all about, did he? He had no clue and yet he was faithful to do exactly what God had said. Genesis says he did all that God had commanded him.

So God was the one who came and revealed himself, who worked in Noah and made him a herald of righteousness in his day. And then there's Lot, the text calls him Righteous Lot. God rescued him from the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the rescue was not dependent on Lot. In fact, Lot was rather reluctant, was he not? Scripture says, how love is he lingered.

Do you ever linger where you shouldn't be? We are like Lot. In fact, so much so that he had to be seized by the hand and dragged out of the city at the last minute. But the Lord was merciful to him. So what is our takeaway from this text then? What do we gain from this? First of all, I'm struck in this by my vulnerability to temptation, the allurement of this world, the wiles of the devil, the destructive desires of my own flesh, seeking of pleasure and self-gratification of material gain and comfort of position and status.

I'm vulnerable to temptation. Another thing that I see here is that there is with God's blessing, there is great responsibility. God blessed Noah, found favor for him, grace for him, and yet Noah had the responsibility to proclaim the truth and to build the ark. We as Americans get really comfortable in this world, don't we? We need to be responding rightly to what we see in the world around us and proclaiming the truth of God's righteousness. We don't need to be at home in the world, and too often I think we accept the blessing of God as Americans and think that this is our dessert. We really should be comfortable.

We really should have abundance. Well, maybe not. The bottom line is this, and this is, I think, the most important aspect of this. God is able. God knows how. God's people in every place and at all times are set apart and kept by God for his glory. And the focus in this, of course, is God himself. It's all for his glory. God is in control.

Nothing happens apart from his sovereign rule. Peter reminds his readers that just as God knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment, he also knows how to rescue the godly from trials. But you know, there are times when even as blessed and as affluent and as abundant as our life is, we don't really see God delivering us from the trials, rescuing us, do we?

We think that maybe God is not acting as we think he should. And we need to be reminded of what happened to the three Hebrew children in Babylon. You remember the story. They were in captivity, and they were called on by the king to bow down to an idol. They refused, and the punishment and penalty was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. They knew God was on his throne, and so they came to the king and said, our God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace. They also knew God's ways are not our ways. They were living in what an old black Manhattan preacher called one time, living in the realm of if not. Our God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, but if not, we're still not going to bow down. We can't. And so we live many times in the realm of if not. There's nothing wrong with that. It's okay for us to ask God to do something that he may not do.

In fact, do you remember our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified? He said, Father, if it's possible, I don't want to do this. Let this cup pass. I'd rather not do this. Nevertheless, not my will, thy will be done. We have to learn to live with the horrors of evil all around us, trusting God, resting in his mercy, and seeking his glory above our protection.

There was a Norwegian theologian, pastor, first half of the 20th century, Ole Halaspi. He wrote a little book on prayer, and I want to close with this admonition from his book on prayer. It says prayer is ordained for the purpose of glorifying the name of God. You thought it was about getting stuff from God.

Well, that's part of it, but that's not the purpose. It's for glorifying the name of God. Therefore, whether you pray for big things or for little things, say to God, if it will glorify thy name, then grant my prayer and help me. But if it will not glorify thy name, then let me remain in my predicament and give me power to glorify thy name in the situation which I find myself. You pray like that, do you look at all of the junk, the evil, the sin that is in our world and in our own hearts, and you ask God to be rescued from it all, but then you say, only if it will glorify your name, but if not, leave me right where I am and give me the grace to glorify you even in the midst of all of this. God is able to keep the unjust in punishment until the judgment.

He's also able to rescue his people. Let's pray together. Father, we are so much of the time caught up in our own peace and comfort and what we deem to be good for us, and we don't give the right attention and concern and energy to your glory. At times it's easier when we are gathered with your people for worship, for corporate prayer and singing and preaching, and then we go out into the world, we go into our homes and we act more like the children of the world than we do your children. Father, grant us grace, empower us by your Spirit to rest securely in Christ, but then to do battle against the evil of this world. We ask in Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-27 20:06:54 / 2022-11-27 20:18:03 / 11

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime