Music playing. From an early age, all of us balk at being told what to do. We don't have to teach two-year-olds how to dig in their heels and say no. That's why a false teacher's promise of freedom from rules can be so effective. And today on Truth for Life, we'll learn why these promises of freedom ultimately lead to enslavement. Alistair Begg is teaching from 2 Peter chapter 2.
We're looking at verses 10 through 22. The mindset in which all of us move from day to day is so coerced by the worldview of our contemporary culture that we have now come to the conclusion that no one is justified in speaking like this about anyone. Nobody is allowed to say such things. And anyone who would pronounce such judgment on any group of people or on any circumstances must themselves somehow or another be disengaged from their senses, or at least they are disengaged from contemporary thought forms and mores.
And this, I think, is one of the great challenges that we're now going to face in the twenty-first century. If we're going to hold true for what the Bible says, if we're going to stand for righteousness and for truth, then we are increasingly going to be on the receiving end of that kind of response. You people are bigoted. You people are this.
You people are that. You know, do you want people to like you in the immediacy and essentially despise you in eternity? Or would you rather have them despise you now for your straightforwardness and rejoice with you in eternity? In other words, do you have the courage to be a biblical Christian?
I don't find this easy. Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. The promises of the Bible are real promises, but the warnings of the Bible are real warnings.
They left the straight way. They may have got up in the morning and said, Well, that's fine, we're ditching this, but the chances are they didn't. They simply slipped off theologically, morally, spiritually. And somebody said, You know, there's a Bible study going on, and there's a fellow got a thing going about Balaam, the son of Beor. It's really good. I mean, it's fairly ordinary, and I don't think it's deviant anyway. It's sort of good stuff. It's just that it's got a little Balaam twist to it. One person says, Well, you know, I'm getting rather bored with the kind of stuff we're getting. It's the same stuff all the time. It's continually reminding us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why don't we go off? What's one Bible study going to do to you? Somebody said, You know, it's not really that big of a deal.
It's not the kind of thing that'll bring you down. And so, who are these people? Well, he describes them in the closing paragraph, verse 17. What are their characteristics? Well, first of all, they're empty. They are springs without water. They're mists driven by a storm. They're unsatisfactory, and they're useless. They come and go. They don't have any settled principles or convictions.
Springs without water, mists driven by a storm. Dick Lucas, in a wonderfully characteristic sentence or two, says, You have only to visit a secondhand theological bookshop with its piles of unsaleable rubbish, once the latest thing in theological audacity, to see the force of this. In other words, every generation throws nonsense up. Everybody gets alarmed by it, writes about it in Christianity Today, says, This is going to bring us down. We'll never survive this one, you know?
And then you go, if you live long enough, and go through the old bookshops. And you say, Do you remember when that was an issue? Do you remember when people were concerned about that? Absolute nonsense. Unsatisfactory. Empty.
Springs without water. Mists in the darkness. Don't be alarmed by them, but certainly don't be like them. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. Their clouds of obscure, unhelpful nonsense that is represented in their teaching simply cast unhelpful shadows.
But the shadows they cast is as nothing compared to the darkness which awaits them. The mouth-empty words, which are also boastful words, they're big, they sound ponderous. The word in Greek is huperonka. Their words are huperonka. It's a great word, isn't it?
You may want to write that down and use it, at least in your Anglicized version. Huperonka. Sounds like tonka, doesn't it? At least, you know, that's the way my mind works.
That's how brilliant I am. Other people say, This is an amazing Greek word, and I say, This is a Greek word, and it sounds like tonka truck. But tonka trucks are big trucks, as far as I know.
Most of them. I remember Cameron wanted a tonka truck when he was small, and it was enormous. Well, it's the same thing.
It's huperonka tonka. They're just the words appear to be tremendous. They have a presence to them, but they're absolute rubbish.
They mouth boastful, empty words. They appeal to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, and they're particularly strong with people who are just trying to extricate themselves from the realm of paganism. Now, again, we don't know the details, but the chances are that they were teaching some form of gnosticism. Gnosticism essentially separated the soul from the body, said that God was really interested in the soul. Once you had your soul dealt with, you could do what you like with your body, because your body didn't really matter, in direct contrast to what the Bible says. The Bible says that we are a unity, and what we do with our bodies affects our personalities. So don't ever have anybody tell you that you can do this with your body.
It doesn't matter, because after all, your soul is secure with God. And often what happens with these groups—and it happens still today—is that they offer to individuals knowledge. They have a leadership structure where individuals have the knowledge. You have to go in the room to meet the leader if you want to get the next stage of knowledge. And if you make it through that stage, you could go in another room and meet another leader who will give you another little bit of knowledge. And when you interweave that with sexual promiscuity, then you have branched Davidian.
And what they were doing in verse 19 is that they were promising freedom. You see, this is the thing. You have to be very, very careful. It's not these individuals who are saying, If you come to our study, you're going to get involved in deep darkness, you will become a blot and a blemish, you will be destroyed.
No, no. They say, If you come and join us, you can get away from that Parkside nonsense. You know, it's people who say what they're saying about the Bible and Martin Luther and all of that jazz. Get away from that. We can give you freedom over here. He says, Well, they promised freedom, but they're slaves of depravity. And then it sounds as though Peter had been listening to Jesus, doesn't it? For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.
You remember when Jesus says to the Pharisees, Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Peter must have made a note of that in the back of his mind. He said, I'll use that someday.
And there, here, he puts it in his second letter. A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Like drug dealers who are held themselves in the grip of addiction, they seek to sell others the wonderfully freeing experience of getting high, which, of course, they know is the most dreadful bondage. Says Seneca, To be enslaved to oneself is the heaviest of all servitudes. What I'm arguing for is the abiding place of the law of God in the life of the Christian.
And the more I move around, this is what I find. People say, No, duty, no duty. You see, you have freedom, and freedom means that you do whatever the Spirit tells you to do. What I think the Bible says is that Spirit enables us to do the duty to which the Bible calls us. It is not an attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God. But it is to live in the empowerment of God in a way that pleases him.
When I finished everything, too late, I went to a book given to me by a friend, the New Oxford Book of Christian Verse, and found a poem by William Cowper, entitled Love Constraining to Obedience. Incidentally, we're like, How did I even get here? You're saying, This is a strange departure.
How did he get off on this? Well, what is being addressed here is actually antinomianism. Nomos is Greek for law.
Anti is against law. And these individuals are lawless individuals. They're the kind of individuals who say, You don't have to pay any attention to the Ten Commandments. That was in the Old Testament.
You don't have to pay any attention to anything that anybody ever tells you about duty in the Christian life. Those individuals are legalists, have nothing to do with them. Come and join us in the realm of freedom. Well, of course there is legalism—an attempt to make ourselves more acceptable to God by the deeds we do. That is legalism. But the antidote to legalism is not to fall into the antinomianism of license, such as is profound here, but is to live on the narrow pathway to which James refers as the perfect law which gives liberty. Now, in the midst of all of that, then, Calpert, listen to this carefully. No strength of nature can suffice To serve the LORD aright.
And what she has she misapplies For want of clearer light. How long beneath the law I lay In bondage and distress! I toiled the precept to obey But toiled without success. Then to abstain from outward sin Was more than I could do.
Now, if I feel its power within, I feel I hate it too. Then all my servile works were done, A righteousness to raise. Now freely chosen in the Son, I freely choose his ways. Now, for those of you who come from a Roman Catholic background, this is what you tell me. We grew up—ten commandments, ten commandments, ten commandments—and we discovered that we couldn't keep the ten commandments. We discovered that we were dreadfully sinful, and we discovered that there was no hope for us at all. You should be very thankful that you discovered that.
Because that's exactly what you needed to discover. You were sinful, you are sinful, you couldn't keep the ten commandments, and you couldn't put yourself right with God. What you didn't get was that the answer lay in a once-for-all atoning sacrifice for sin, whereby you were put right with God. But having been put right with God, you are not then set out on a pathway to do whatever you like. But you're set out on a pathway to do what God designs. Then, back then, all the works were done, a righteousness to raise, trying to make ourselves more and more acceptable. Now, freely chosen in the Son, I freely choose his ways.
What shall I do? Was then the word that I may worthier grow? What shall I render to the Lord is my inquiry now? And then here's the whole book, you know. Seventy-five thousand words summarized in four lines, I wish I'd found it at first to save everybody a lot of difficulty. To see the law by Christ fulfilled and hear his pardoning voice changes a slave into a child, and duty into choice. Sobering conclusion. One of the most unsettling sections is 20 to the end.
I'll just mention it and make a run for it. If they've escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they're worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. Now, before you all descend on me at the end and saying, There you are, you see. It's possible to be a genuine Christian and then not to be a Christian. It's therefore clearly possible to lose your salvation. What are we to say to this?
Well, Peter is describing those who at some point have made an escape from the corruption around them. He said, I'm not going down there anymore. I'm not doing drugs anymore.
I'm not going to hang around with those people who are doing that filthy stuff anymore. I'm going to go to Bible studies at Parkside now. I used to stay out till four o'clock in the morning.
I sat here. I'm going home at eleven o'clock. And I'm going to get up, and I'm going to go to the 815 service, because I believe there are more points the earlier you go.
And if you show up in the evening, you get it supersized, and it is a fantastic opportunity. And when they meet their friends, their friends say, So what's up with you now? I didn't see you down the such-and-such. Oh, no!
He said, I don't go down there anymore. No, I have escaped all of that. I've escaped all of that. I'm into a Jesus thing.
Now I go to the 815, and then I stay in the Commons as long as I can, and then I do another little bit in the afternoon, then I stay in the evening too. And then all of a sudden, three or four months have elapsed, and the fellow's back exactly where he was. His friend said to him, What in the world happened to you? I thought you escaped the corruption that was in the world.
He said, Well, I thought I did too, but I clearly didn't. Now I know what I did. I exchanged one set of external circumstances for another set of external circumstances. It appeared to others, perhaps it even appeared to themselves, that they were the real deal. But something, somewhere along the journey, attracted them, twisted them, the pool of self-indulgence. It won out over the demands of holy living. They discovered that they were either going to have to stay the course and alter their lives, or they were going to have to turn back to where they'd been. And he says, strikingly, in verse 21, that ignorance would have been preferable.
Ignorance would have been preferable. It really would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and to turn their backs on it. You see, to know the gospel, to come to Parkside or any other gospel-teaching church regularly, to begin to change your external circumstances, and then to turn your back on it all, is to be found in an actually unforgivable position.
Not because God is unwilling to forgive, but because when a man or a woman persists in that kind of self-delusion, they leave themselves with no way of escape. And what they do is they turn their backs on the sacred—the sacred command, which is really shorthand for the message. They turn their backs on the gospel that was passed on to them. And what a horrible picture at the end of verse chapter 2. A scavenging dog eating its own vomit, and a pig wallowing in its own mud. Revolting vivid pictures of the destiny of these brute beasts.
Oh yes, there was an initial display of repentance and reformation, and they returned to what they hadn't really left. These are disturbing, troubling verses. Therefore, when you've come to disturbing, troubling verses like this, you must always study them in the light of what we know. What do we know?
With this I conclude. That the ground of our salvation that is full and final and free is in the work of Christ upon the cross. So when the evil one comes to say, But you made a hash of things, you have not repented enough, as we began with a quote from Spurgeon, you're never really forgiving enough, you're never that enough, or whatever else it is, then all of these are thoughts about ourselves. The ground of our salvation is not in ourselves.
It's outside of ourselves. It's in the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, we know that within the visible professing church, there will always be those who are false professors. There will always be those who are false professors. Also, we know that it is hard to tell the truth from the fake, the real from the false, and for the most part, we should leave it to Jesus Christ to judge the issue. When blatant disobedience emerges in the framework of the church, then discipline is the key. Hearing the Word without doing it, professing it without practicing it, singing Jesus is King, and pleasing myself is an indication of the fact that I have never truly trusted in Christ. And therefore, we must examine ourselves and run afresh to Christ. I would think that most of us find this section a little too strong for our palates.
There's some cheese when you open the thing, it's like, whoa, whoa. No, I don't think so. Not this evening. You take the lid off 2 Peter 2, the end of it, oh. But imagine false teachers going amongst my children, catching them out, ensnaring them, putting them into their lust-laden dens. Wouldn't we be justifiably angry?
You bet your life you would. You would do everything in your power in order to secure them in the path of righteousness. That is all that Peter is doing. And you don't have to be particularly brilliant to recognize that if this was a word for the first century, it is surely a word for the twenty-first century. So let us pay attention to it. The idea that rejecting God's law brings freedom is misguided. It ultimately leads to enslavement, to depravity, and sin. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg echoing the Apostle Peter's warning to be on guard against false teaching.
Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program with prayer. In the Bible, the psalmist talks about hiding God's word in our hearts to keep from sinning. One way we do this is by doing what has become a lost art, memorizing verses of scripture. Maybe you haven't done this recently.
Maybe you've never done it. Well, the book Habits of Grace, Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines, provides an easy approach to scripture memorization and it explains how you can benefit from it. This is a book that recommends a specific routine of practices or disciplines that will draw you closer to the Lord Jesus and work in a transforming way in your life. The author of the book has benefited greatly from these practices in his own life and he explains how these routine disciplines can strengthen your daily life as a believer. Request your copy of Habits of Grace today when you give a donation online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now along with Bible memorization, studying God's word is a great way to meditate on the scripture so you're not enticed by false teachers. If you have not yet purchased a copy of volume 2 of the Truth for Life daily devotional, we still have some available.
Visit our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. The devotional is a biblically solid resource that will inspire your quiet time with God. And if you already have your copy, maybe you'd like to order additional books for your life group or your church library or to pass on to a friend, this devotional makes a great gift for both new believers and established believers. It's also a great book to share if your church is looking for a resource to give to a new member or to new believers.
Each copy is just $9 and shipping is free in the US. Once again you'll find the Truth for Life devotional volume 2 at truthforlife.org slash store or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here is Alistair with prayer. Father, I pray that out of all of these words tonight that we will be confronted by the authority and power of your truth the Bible, not what I have to say about it or quirky insights. Write your word in our lives. I pray for those for whom the gospel is just unknown to them. I pray that tonight may spark in them a desire to get to grips with the Bible, to find out about Jesus who he is and why he came. Pray for those of us who are dilly-dallying around on the fringes of sin and thinking that we can believe one thing and do what we like, that it doesn't really matter what we do or where we go, and we're not going to be constrained by anybody's rules. Well, Lord show us that to choose your path is actually the greatest freedom of all. And grant that when we declare you as our King we may live as your loyal subjects. Help us to do so now for your name's sake. Amen.
I'm Bob Lapine. We are so glad you joined us today. It's been almost 2,000 years since Jesus promised he would return. How should we respond to those who say he's not coming back? How do we explain why it's taking so long? Listen tomorrow to find out. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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