Perhaps it came in the form of a snide comment from a colleague, or maybe it was a direct attack on your personal character. Have you ever faced discrimination or even persecution as a follower of Jesus Christ? Well, in these awkward moments, we can take refuge in comforting promises of the Bible. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his study in the book of 2 Peter.
We'll be looking at the third chapter, where we find instruction on how to respond when we face opposition. Chuck titled today's message, Skeptics and Sinners Beware. Our culture is filled to the brim with skeptics. It's becoming increasingly more popular to restrict one's thinking to the black and white world of proven facts. By that, I mean to leave no space for faith, no place for the miraculous. After all, no quote intelligent individual who trusts scientific data or mathematical axioms or natural laws could ever tolerate those things being altered, certainly not by some alleged divine intervention.
From the perspective of smart, keen-thinking skeptics, it's not only silly but sloppy to think in terms of the unexplainable or the miraculous. It's much easier simply to embrace a wholesale denial of faith, including all the Word of God. Denying God's Word seems so plausible, so sensible to skeptics and mockers, as long as they're alive and well.
That is, until they themselves get sick or stand face to face with death, and then ultimately stand before Almighty God. Skepticism is not a new mentality. The apostle Peter mentions it in the third chapter of his second letter, written back in the first century. Peter puts his finger on the pulse of our sophisticated world, where cool skepticism reigns supreme. His letter carries timeless truths that ring true in our 21st century, just as they did when his ink was wet on the parchment. My Bible is open to 2 Peter 3, and I'm reading verses 1-7. Peter writes, This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you, in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. You're listening to Insight for Living.
To dig deeper into 2 Peter with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash studies. And now, the message from Chuck titled, Skeptics and Sinners Beware. There are some promises that bring us a great deal of comfort and relief.
In fact, most of them are like that. There are some, however, that bring a bit of trouble and uneasiness. For example, I have my New Testament open to the third chapter of 2 Timothy, where I find one of those troubling promises.
Some make us feel comfortable, others cause us a little bit of dread, and this is one of those in the latter category. As a matter of fact, the 12th verse represents that particular promise, but in 2 Timothy 3, beginning at verse 10, we lead up to it with Paul's personal testimony which, by the way, he wrote from a dungeon in Rome. He says to Timothy, but you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, sufferings such as happened to me at Antioch and Iconium and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me. Now look at the promise, which you may not have thought of as a promise before.
And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Now that's a promise. If indeed a promise is made up of a verse of scripture that is written in the future tense, and it is on the authority of God's Holy Spirit that it has been written, then we can count on the fact that this will come true.
So I have a question for you. When was the last time you experienced the fulfillment of this promise? For some of you it may have been in recent weeks, maybe months, perhaps for others of you it has been years, maybe never. Have you ever been the brunt of someone's scoffing, or to use the word from scripture, someone's deliberate persecution?
You say well it seems to me like that's something for another generation, maybe we've moved on beyond that. But there's nothing in this verse or in any part of the Bible that limits a time of persecution. As long as there have been saints on the earth, there have been scoffers to attack the faith of the saints. I don't mean mild disagreement where all of us enter into that kind of uneasy feeling when we know someone may be talking about us behind our backs or feeling a certain way about us because they disagree. I'm talking about bold and blatant and brash mocking, overt public rejection. I remember one of the first times it happened to me. I was a young seminary student right in the middle of my training at Dallas Seminary and a friend of mine and I went up to Norman, Oklahoma and I stood on a free speech platform and delivered my soul. To my amazement most people weren't interested in my deliverance and as a matter of fact it was my first time to feel and to hear jabs and sarcastic remarks made to the Lord I loved. Even though I had every right to be there and they had every right to say whatever they wished, it seemed to me at that moment a strange experience. In fact some of them threw things, some of them shouted back things that they believed and things that they knew I did not believe.
They seemed to take delight in that. As a matter of fact even before then I watched an occasion where a mocker had his day in a church service. I was sitting in the pews of a rather small church and sitting behind me in a couple of places over, not far away from me, was a man who was in great disagreement with what the preacher was saying and this particular morning service the preacher felt rather dogmatic about his subject and so he really came down hard on it and the fellow behind me in a few places away couldn't take it any longer and I had never seen this before. I have seen it since by the way but I had never seen it before. The fellow stood up to his feet and threw his hand forward and said, hey that is ridiculous and he walked right out and I must say to the praise of the man preaching he never even stopped.
He kept right on going. Sounds like a preacher doesn't it? Most of the time the criticism that comes our way is veiled.
In fact most of the time we don't even know what people are saying. A roast preacher is served rather regularly on Sunday afternoons but the preacher isn't there to hear it. On occasion he may be aware of something being said but only rarely does that turn into mocking and do the critics go public and make a display turning it into persecution. You know while thinking about this what I'm calling a promise those who live godly will be persecuted I want us to go back just in our mind without turning to the chapters and the verses and let's think about three different segments of time where there have been occasions of overt mocking and scoffing. One of the first times certainly would be the days of Noah where the preacher of righteousness built this ark for a hundred and twenty years and think of those times when the people around him must have screamed back and shouted out their disapproval and their disdain denying fully what Noah believed with all his heart. According to the scriptures he was a preacher of righteousness and yet how few people became converts. In a hundred and twenty years the only ones he won were the members of his family. When you move a little further you get to the days of Moses and his own people the Hebrews on a number of occasions when they were frustrated and hungry and thirsty for a cool drink of water when they longed for the delectable food of Egypt in days gone by they would openly attack him for this monotonous food called manna that was catered to them rather regularly there in the wilderness. You remember another time where his brother Aaron scoffed at him in another way he led the people to build a golden calf and to worship the calf while Moses was on the mountain getting the law of God on stone and another occasion his own sister Miriam turned against him and publicly denied the fact that he was the sole recipient of the message from God she said God speaks to me as well and Aaron joined in and the judgment was severe they suffered at the hand of God. The faithful spies who came back from the land of Canaan remember that after Moses had led them right to the edge of the land and then Joshua took over from there just before Moses death he sent in those spies and twelve of them went in and twelve of them came back ten said we could never do it and two said we can Caleb and Joshua remember the people's response they as it were laughed them to scorn we can't possibly take the land because these ten men have convinced us there are giants in the land a time of overt persecution and then David if you've not identified with anyone yet in my list you may with this one David discovered that the man who had brought him into the court to become his personal musician and in an encouragement turned against him David is not the last person to have one who was once a close friend become a persecutor and Saul who had loved and needed David turned on him and in fact made attempts at his life and threw a spear at him on one occasion in fact he sent the entire army of the Hebrews after David and he hunted him and he haunted David for if I figure it correctly more than 12 years David had to live in hiding persecuted by a man who had gone mad out of jealousy Elijah was another as Jezebel threatened him and in fact said to him if you're not out of here if you're not out of my sight in 24 hours you'll be dead if you have never had your life threatened you can't imagine the kind of pressure that would bring to a prophet who had done nothing but what was right in God's eyes and then I can't leave out Nehemiah whose enemies were named in the book aren't you glad that God is no longer writing the word of God I wonder how many names would appear in a current book of God among those who make the messenger of God experience heartache and his own personal misery Tobiah and Sanballat and Geshim were three people who so hated the work of God that they tried any number of ways to stop it in the building of the wall but Nehemiah pressed right on and who could know how much persecution the prophets endured in fact it says all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted when we turn to the days of the New Testament of course the first one we encounter is Jesus Christ I was just sitting in my study moments ago going over the gospel accounts and though I didn't plan to find these times I found one occasion after another yet after another where someone laughed at Christ I don't know if you've come across that in your study of the gospels but on a half a dozen or more occasion just by sort of by chance while reading through the gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark I wasn't even into Luke or John I found one occasion after another where people laughed at him did you know that the people of his own town saw him as one who had lost his senses and came to put him away to put him in custody they thought he was insane here is one who was God's son declaring God's truth and the people of his own family laughed at him and considered him insane and then there was Stephen the faithful deacon of the early church who refused to deny his Lord and became the first martyr he desired to live godly in Christ Jesus he was persecuted Paul and his companions of course we can't leave them out hated misunderstood maligned mocked resisted even stoned and left to die messengers of the truth who became objects of hatred and persecution I was reading this past week of Paul's account in in second Timothy where you're you have your Bible open and I'd have you look again at chapter four where a very near the end of all of his writings he brings to mind a man who did him much harm second Timothy four fourteen and he names him Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm the Lord will repay him according to his deeds I'm impressed with Paul's refusal to defend himself reminds me of the words of Peter where he says of the Lord when he was threatened he threatened not when he went to the cross and was was a mocked despised and finally killed he did not answer in return a good lesson to learn for all who are being persecuted that you turn the persecutor over to the Lord he said the Lord will repay him in his time and in his own way according to his deeds and then he warns but you be on guard against Alexander the coppersmith for he vigorously opposed our teaching you've hung around Christian things long enough to know that God doesn't just toss in words to make them make them sound dramatic when he says he he vigorously opposed our teaching you can believe he means it there were things that Alexander did that were overt and ugly things to hurt the teaching of the apostle Paul and the and yet the apostle says I've gone right on with my life and I've turned him over to the Lord to take care of him as he sees fit and then the third era would of course take us into the days of the of the church time doesn't allow us to name one after another but I would say certainly from the earliest part of the Reformation until it ran its course from let's say from John Wycliffe all the way to George Whitfield you can hardly read of a servant of God who spoke forcefully and vigorously for the things of God who was not the brunt of hatred and the the object of persecution there were mockers there were scoffers there were people who laughed in their faces and there were those who took their lives that is the lives of these men and women of God so much so that some of the reformers took up a style that would be considered today angry and certainly forceful I was reading Philip Shoffs work on Luther in the German Reformation and I came across Luther's own words as he writes them to a friend I am rough boisterous stormy and altogether warlike I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils I'd like to have this fellas your pastor I must remove stumps and stones cutaway thistles and thorns and clear the wild forests Luther continues as a man of war one man says his writing smell of powder his words are battles he overwhelms his opponents with a roaring cannonade of argument eloquence passion and abuse Shoff concludes the account by saying Luther was bold most heroic and commanding without Luther the Reformation would never have taken hold of the common people I mean if it was worth declaring it was worth fighting for and if it was worth fighting for it was worth standing against those who oppose the truth and so we find ourselves today still living with that same promise those who desire to live godly can count on it you will be the object of people's tongues and efforts to hurt the cause of Christ but go right on I like Stewart Briscoe's definition of a pastor qualifications of a pastor the mind of a scum scholar the heart of a child the hide of a rhinoceros very good and that is a pretty good job description when we turn from 2 Timothy 3 to 2 Peter chapter 3 we find the scoffers being the object of attention in Peter's writings because you see the problem with this promise that I have been emphasizing you begin to get the idea that they are going to win that those who mock and those who scoff and those who it seems get their way continue on and those who choose not to defend themselves wind up on the short end of the stick as James Russell Lowell once wrote truth forever on the scaffold wrong forever on the throne we don't like that that isn't fair we want we want truth on the throne and we want wrong on the scaffold and the good news tucked away in 2 Peter 3 is is that God has a plan and in the final analysis the scoffers will be silenced the persecution will stop and the sinners will be judged and God's final timetable he will work it out right justice will be due now believers who walk with God need some reassurance and that's the way the third chapter begins in Peter's second letter the question would come from the mind of a young Christian how do I go through a time when I am under attack how do I keep my equilibrium how does a preacher keep from fighting back first of all he remembers the words from God look at how he puts it I'm stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder that you should see this is counsel on what we ought to do you should remember the words spoken beforehand there is something incredibly reassuring calming and encouraging about the timeless truths of God's book when you the next time you are the brunt of someone's attack or the verbal or otherwise and the flack gets heavy and the mocking gets ugly you will find that when you turn to the word of God there is counsel of reassurance so remember what God has written in today's cultural climate it feels like opposition is rising against Christians and these words from second Peter chapter three bring us comfort you're listening to insight for living keep listening because there's much more in this passage that Chuck swindoll wants to show us he's titled today's message skeptics and sinners beware to learn more about this ministry visit us online at insight world.org well if you missed any of the earlier sermons in this series I want to tell you that insight for living has recorded all ten programs and the complete set is in stock and ready right now to purchase the entire series called conquering through conflict go to insight.org slash store or call us if you're listening in the United States call us at 800-772-8888 in addition to these messages did you know that insight for living provides a daily free devotional from Chuck it's called insight for today it's an email that arrives automatically in your inbox to sign up to receive these encouraging daily reflections from Chuck go to insight.org slash Devo finally I want to say thanks to all those who have given generously over the summer your contributions are making a difference in fact in recent days we've received hundreds of comments from all around the world and each one tells a story of their gratitude to insight for living for instance I love this comment that said your radio broadcasts saved my life and kept me sane and able to walk through the grief of a broken marriage another one said I was saved listening to insight for living as a 14 year old on radio station WMBI in Chicago you know that's exactly why we provide insight for living but we can't do it without the support of friends like you so as God prompts you to join the team and financially support this nonprofit ministry we invite you to give us a call if you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or you can give online at insight.org I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us when Chuck's one doll continues his message called skeptics and sinners beware that's next time on insight for living the preceding message skeptics and sinners beware was copyrighted in 1990 and 2011 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles parse wind all ink all rights are reserved worldwide duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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