We all suffer from forgetfulness. It can be frustrating and at times embarrassing. We forget to buy Christmas presents, we forget to follow through on our new diets after eating so much at Christmas time, we forget items on a shopping list, we forget to check the mail, to turn the light off, special occasions, appointments and even people’s names. And so we try various techniques to help us remember. We write post it notes; we tie a piece of string to our finger; we write on our hands; and there’s all those mnemonics we use to try and remember people’s names.
There is a forgetfulness that is even worse. It is forgetting what God has said in His Word and what He has done in our lives.
Forgetting Biblical truth makes us vulnerable to bad teaching or temptation. It also makes us vulnerable to the contemporary cultural obsession with novelty. Being innovative and new is not always bad. But this obsession with novelty can be bad when it leads people away from old timeless truth in place of something new.
Throughout Scripture God’s people are called to remember and not forget – for example, Deut. 4:9; Jeremiah 6:16. In the Old Testament, the annual practice of Passover was (in addition to being a picture of Christ’s future work) designed to be a reminder of God’s great deliverance of His people from Egypt. Christ gave us the regular practice of communion to remember him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-25).
It is vital for God’s people to be reminded of God’s Word. That’s what the Apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:12-15. In fact, I think that’s the main reason he wrote this letter. As we approach a New Year, in the midst of many new year’s resolutions and commitments, I hope this helps us remember what’s worth remembering.
1. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE REMINDER (2 Peter 1:12)
This passage begins with Peter reminding us of the things he wrote in the first 11 verses of this chapter. We are saved by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1). Christ is the source for our spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:3-4). We are responsible to supplement our faith with seven qualities (2 Peter 1:5-7). There is satisfaction now and in eternity for those who live according to such things.
This means that there is a difference between knowing gospel truth and living according to gospel truth. Peter’s readers knew the gospel truth (“though you know them”). And even though they were “established in the truth” it was still necessary that they be reminded of it. Why is this the case? Because we’re so quick to forget. Things can very easily distract us, and then, slowly yet surely, we’re led away from gospel living.
Verse 12 is a loud and serious reminder of the need to remember. All Christians need to be reminded of the basic truths of salvation. It doesn’t matter if you are a young believer or a mature believer; all Christians need to be reminded regularly.
Why does Peter labour this need to remember? Well, that brings me to my second point.
2. THE REASON FOR THE REMINDER (2 Peter 1:13-14)
Peter knows that he doesn’t have much more time in this life. The word he uses for “body” in verses 13 and 14 is “tabernacle”. Peter views his physical body as a temporary dwelling by calling it a tent. The tent is only a temporary dwelling. When we go camping, we only pack and carry basic necessities. At the end of the camping trip, we pack up the tent, and set our sights on home. Because home has our comfortable bed, a clean shower, our favourite couch, and all the comforts that make home homely.
We need to remember the same when it comes to life in this body. This world is not our home. We are only passing through. This body that we have right now is a tent. One day, it will be pulled down. Our Lord Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us in His eternal kingdom, and there we will dwell for all eternity.The Apostle Paul says very similar things in 2 Cor 5.
There are many lessons here for us. We don’t often discuss the topic of death. We do acknowledge it from time to time, but generally it’s avoided. As Christians, we need to think Biblically on the topic of death. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Losing a loved one is a horrible tragedy. It results in grief, which is that normal process of displaying the sorrow and anguish we feel from losing someone we love. Death tears the living apart emotionally.
What does the Bible say about death? How can we prepare for death – for the grief of losing someone, and also for our own departure?
Death is real and it is in existence. It is an undeniable reality. Death came into existence as the result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:19). The punishment of this sin was death (cf. Rom. 5:12, 6:23). Because of sin, death is in existence and is a normal part of life (cf. Heb. 9:27).
We need to remember all this, because contemporary Western culture ignores death, as if ignoring it will make it go away. One aspect of counter-cultural Christian living today is facing death with the confident hope of resurrection into eternal life – the kind of confidence that only Christ can bring.
Death is an Enemy
Though death exists and is a normal part of life, death is a not a natural part of life. Death is the consequence of sin. Death is an ugly and horrible experience. The apostle Paul wrote, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). It is an enemy and it really provides us a picture of how despicable sin is.
We need to remember this because the way contemporary culture makes peace with death is painting it as something normal – a function of biology. We wind down and become obsolete, like an old car or a late-model smartphone. So we might as well throw ourselves away, hence the current obsession with physician-assisted suicide.
Death is an Entrance
Despite the terror that death is, for the Christian, death is also an entrance to glory. How does a believer go from life here to life in the New Creation? With the exception of Enoch, Elijah and those alive at the time of the Lord’s return, death is the entrance to glory. Psalm 116:15 says God treats the death of his people as “precious”.
What happens when a believer dies? It is the clear teaching of Scripture that the moment this takes place their soul is instantly with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). When a believer dies they are home in Heaven with their Saviour Jesus Christ. This is an exciting reality – but it is not easy for those left behind. The death of a Christian is a bittersweet experience. We rejoice that our loved one is with the Lord in Heaven; yet we rightly grieve their absence from us.
We need to remember this because contemporary culture denies life after death. YOLO is the mantra for today: You Only Live Once. So stuff yourself with as much pleasure as you can cope with, as quick as you can, because death is really boring.
In contrast, the Christian knows that we will only experience ultimate, unending joy after we die – in the New Creation, with God. So we can sacrifice good things now in order to care for other people.
To sum up this section: because death is a reality, life here on earth is temporary. Our life is evanescent. It is like a mist that is there in the morning and then quickly fades away (cf. James 4:14).
3. THE REPETITION OF THE REMINDER (1:15)
The fact that Peter repeats his reminder shows us that we need to be reminded to remember. Peter committed himself to “make every effort” to remind his readers of these things. He calls to “make every effort to supplement our faith” (1:5) with these things. So we need to make a committed and consistent effort to read these truths in God’s Word regularly. We need to pray these truths. We need to sing these truths. We need to hear these truths preached. We need to memorize these truths. And we need to live these truths. Only by immersing of ourselves in truth helps us to be able to recall them at any time.
It is so easy for us to be distracted by the things of this world that do not ultimately matter. We can fill our lives with entertainment and knowledge, but when we die, what do we have to show for it? The great preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones wisely noted:
… the business of the church and of preaching is not present us with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths… It is to repeat the centralities of the Christian gospel, to remind men and women of the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons: 2 Peter, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983 p. 57
Dear reader: our time is short. Our tent will be folded away soon. So we must consistently be reminded of their solid truths of God’s Word, so that we can recall them at any time and grow in grace. All Christians, old and young, need to be reminded. As we approach a New Year, in the midst of many new year’s resolutions and commitments, as the people of God let’s resolve never to forget the life-giving precepts of God (Psalm 119:93). Remember: don’t forget.
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|1.||↑||The Apostle Paul says very similar things in 2 Cor 5.|
|2.||↑||Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Expository Sermons: 2 Peter, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983 p. 57|