The early church had learned how to deal with persecution from outside the community, but needed help defending themselves against those who would destroy her from the inside. Differences within the church were not uncommon – but the recipients of Peters second epistle, Jude’s little letter, and Paul’s communications to the Corinthians faced something altogether different those who purposely distorted the gospel for their own gain and immorality. Peter and Jude denounce these false teachers, while Paul calls the Corinthians to a life of holiness, all three encourage their readers to stand firm in the faith, holding to the promise that Jesus would someday return.
This week in New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs Reading Plan we’ll read 2 Peter and Jude and start 1 Corinthians. Along with these New Testament epistles, we’ll read Psalms that call us to communal thanksgiving and wisdom from Proverbs that challenges to be better parents for our children along with a prescription for a peaceful heart. It was good to be back writing this week after an extended break. Blessings to you friends and keep reading God’s word.
Monday, June 3 – 2 Peter 1; Psalm 64
After writing an earlier letter telling his readers to expect suffering as a part of this life, Peter now writes a second letter. This time he points toward the end of life: our eternal reward. It’s not uncommon to sometimes see v. 3 called the key to Peter’s second letter. What all would you expect to find in a book with this verse as an introduction? How are knowledge of Jesus and godly living related to each other? If you were to increase your knowledge of Jesus and more fully draw on His power for your life, what changes would you hope to see in yourself?
In Psalm 64, David asks God to judge the enemies of the righteous. This psalm begins with a vivid description of the devious ways of the wicked, especially their speech (vv. 3-5, 8). Still, David does not fear that God will lose control of the situation. He requests divine protection and voices confidence that God will judge his wicked foes. The godly should commit their case to God in prayer when they become targets of malicious gossip. They can also rest in the assurance that God will eventually turn the antagonism of the wicked back on them (ref. 1 Samuel 25). He will do so for His own glory and for the welfare of those who trust in Him. Why is gossip so hurtful? Recall a time when someone’s gossip especially hurtful. How did you respond? After reading Psalm 64, in what ways will you react the same or differently the next time someone spreads gossip about you?
Tuesday, June 4 – 2 Peter 2; Proverbs 14:22-29
As Peter continues preparing his readers to hold onto their faith without him (ref. 1:12-15), he addresses the dangers of heresy and targets the “false teachers” of his day who tempt Christians. Here Peter makes a stand for truth against heresy, providing us with an example of standing up for truth in a relative society. With so many different views about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, how can we identify “false prophets” and “false teachers”? Study vv. 4-9 and any cross references you have, what did Peter want his readers to learn from these Old Testament events? Why are false teachers and their heresies like “waterless springs and mists driven by a storm” (v. 17a)? In what ways can you protect yourself from the influence of false teachers?
“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (vv. 26-27). The catchword connection between these two proverbs is, “The fear of the Lord.” A life committed to reverential awe of God reaches beyond its own existence. Since evil not only attacks but also attracts, a parent must know and show their family something both stronger and better. Through faith the believer finds the abundant life that saves him and others (namely his children) from death. How would you define “The fear of the Lord” in terms a child would understand? In what ways will “children… have a refuge” in a parent who’s life is rooted in “the fear of the Lord”? Think of several concrete things you can do as a parent (or a parental figure) to show a child the joys of living for God.
Wednesday, June 3 – 2 Peter 3; Psalm 65
Nearly everyone is in agreement that the world will someday end, folks just differ on how it will end. From nuclear holocaust, to global-warming, to drug-resistant disease, or even alien invasion it seems there’s all sorts of end-of-the-world theories (or fantasies). The final chapter of Peter’s final letter speaks of the end-times destruction of the earth but not through catastrophe but through the return of Jesus. Naturally, there are those who scoff at the prospects of divine judgment. Peter and the church of his day had to contend with scoffers who cast doubt on the Lord’s returning, judging His creation and redeeming His people. Unfortunately, scoffers still abound. How does Peter answer the questions raised by the scoffers (vv. 5-7) and the faithful (vv. 8-10)? What words and phrases throughout this passage help describe the day of the Lord? Answers Peter’s question in v. 11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people out you to be…?” Why might living this way prepare you for the kind of day described here?
Psalm 65 is a praise psalm, full of hopeful, confident, even enthusiastic feelings in response to God’s goodness through His spiritual and natural blessings. This psalm is a communal song of thanksgiving that celebrates God blessing His people with forgiveness and a bountiful land (note the plural pronouns in vv. 3, 4, 5). Other communal psalms of thanksgiving are 66, 107, 118, 124, and 129. In spite of our sins, God provides atonement and blesses His environment with many good things so we can prosper and rejoice. It is only fitting that together we give God thanks. List four or more blessings this psalm expresses gratitude for. How do God’s wonders and blessings call forth songs of praise? What value does expressing gratitude to God in a communal setting hold for you? If you church doesn’t already do so, organize a thanksgiving service of songs, prayers, and testimonies of God’s blessings. Make sure you incorporate some of the communal thanksgiving psalms.
Thursday, June 4 – Jude; Proverbs 14:30-35
Jude lived in a time when Christianity was under severe attack from without by the political forces of the day and more importantly from within by aggressive false-teachers. Jude paints a bleak picture of the situation the church faces. He sees an apostasy that undermines grace, disdains authority, and appears beyond repentance and redemption. Thus, Jude calls the church to fight, in the midst of intense spiritual warfare, for the truth. In face of the problem of false-teachers, Jude gives his readers two sets of instructions: “remember” (v. 17) and “build yourselves up” (v. 20). Notice the specific instructions under each of these. How would remembering in the way Jude describes help believers keep the essential ingredients of the Christian faith? How would building ourselves up in the ways Jude outlines (vv. 20-23) help us keep on living in a way that is true to our faith? What errors in faith and life do you see as subtle dangers to today’s Christians? Using Jude’s little epistle as your source, how can you protect yourself, and other believers whose lives you touch, from falling into these errors?
“A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones” (v. 30). Here the Wiseman contrast the peace of contentment with the cancer of jealousy. A contented, peaceful heart will preserve one’s life, but jealousy will kill him. A person who is content with what they have in life possess a peace of mind that leads to a healthy mind, body, and soul. While on the other hand, a resentful mind, which focuses solely only what others have, is like bone cancer that rots the most firm components of the body and shortens a person’s life. Why do you think peaceful contentment leads to a healthy mind, body, and soul? How is jealousy like a cancer to rots a person from the inside? When do you find yourself tempted to be jealous of someone else? When those times come, what will you do to bring peaceful contentment into your heart? Ask God to give you a peacefully content heart.
Friday, June 5 – 1 Corinthians 1; Psalm 66
The church in Corinth was far from perfect. While in Ephesus, Paul hears from several sources a long list of complaints about this eager but misguided flock. From division and factions, to sexual immorality, to abuse of spiritual gifts, to false teaching about the resurrection and much in between the Corinthians were church in trouble. The most serious problem of the Corinthians was worldliness, an unwillingness to divorce themselves from culture around them. I think it’s safe to say, that of all the churches in the New Testament, the church at Corinth was perhaps the most dysfunctional. In light of the topics Paul will discuss throughout this epistle, why do you think he describes himself as “called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” (v. 1)? And why do you think he identifies his readers as “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (v. 2)? Next, Paul surprisingly affirms his readers by giving thanks for them. What does he say about why he is thankful for them? How does Paul’s view of the Corinthians in these opening verses challenge you to view dysfunctional churches and Christians?
Psalm 66 is a song of thanksgiving, as was the previous one. We do not know the writer or the occasion for sure (though a crises of some sort is referenced in vv. 10-12). This joyful psalm begins with group praise (vv. 1-12) and then focuses on individual worship (vv. 13-20). The psalmist rehearses the Red Sea and Jordan River crossings from Israel’s past (v. 6a; ref. Exodus 14; Joshua 3-4) and testifies that God has always been faithful in the midst of serious troubles. First, communally then individually God’s people acknowledge His deliverance and invite other people to join them in praising Him (v. 8a). How might communal praise mentioned in Psalm 65 and here in vv. 1-12 encourage and foster individual worship (vv. 13-20)? How should the giving of thanks and recounting the Lord’s awesome deeds motivate our hearts to call others to know and worship God (v. 8a)? The psalmist ends with a note of his righteousness before God (vv. 16-20). What role should thanksgiving play in promoting a righteous life?