In our introduction to 2 Peter, we considered the reality that belief affects behaviour. Peter, we learned, knew that, if his readers embraced false teaching, they would soon begin to live like the false teachers. He was more concerned that they pursue Christlikeness than that they be technically correct on every theological point. As he closes his letter, he again highlights this truth. We considered 3:14–18 yesterday, but I want to take one more look at these verses from another devotional angle. Specifically, I want to consider what these verses teach us about transformed lives and how to achieve such transformation.
Peter wanted his readers to “be found by [Christ] without spot or blemish and at peace.” He wanted them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (As we saw in our consideration of 1:1–2, Peter brackets his letter with this thought of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.) But he knew that there was only one way that this would happen.
The Scriptures are central to these closing verses. Peter speaks of Paul’s writings—some of which are “hard to understand”—and equates them with “the other Scriptures.” Even in Paul’s own lifetime, his letters were considered authoritative. But “the ignorant and unstable” were wont to “twist” the Scriptures (including Paul’s writings) “to their own destruction.” Peter urged his readers to “take care” not to do the same and therefore not to be “carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” If his readers were to enjoy stability in the faith, they needed to stand firm on the authority of Scripture and interpret Scripture in a careful manner. Twisting or minimising the authority of Scripture would result in instability and, ultimately, destruction. Conversely, a proper embrace of Scriptural authority would produce stability, spotlessness, peace, and growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God has given us the Bible as the means to renew our minds and therefore transform our lives. (And note carefully the order: Scripture must first renew our minds before it will transform our lives. A truly transformed life results from a renewed mind.)
I have recently been given the opportunity to teach Thursday morning Bible studies at an addiction recovery centre, which is connected to a local church in our area. To the unbelieving mind, it may seem strange to include Bible study as a part of an addiction recovery program, but the Christian mind understands the connection. A truly transformed life must begin with a renewed mind. As Paul wrote, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). And the mind is renewed by truth—the truth of God’s word.
Do you long to break free from conformity to the world? Do you wish to be transformed from the inside out? Do you want to be free from legalistic Christianity? Do you want to overcome the sin that so weighs you down? There is one key: Allow your mind to be renewed by the truth of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can renew your mind and therefore transform your life, and the instrument by which he does so is the Scripture. The mind that receives and submits to Scripture as the very truth of God will be renewed, and the renewed mind produces a transformed life.
Douglas Moo tells the story of Frank Gaebelein, a giant of the modern evangelical movement, who was once asked in an interview about the most transformative influence on his life. He did not miss a beat in his response: Daily reading of Scripture. If we want to have our minds renewed and our lives transformed, we must give ourselves regularly to Scripture. Here are two brief encouragements in this regard.
First, read Scripture attentively. Peter admits that there are some things in Scripture that are hard to understand. (Aren’t you glad that an apostle admitted that?) It is perhaps precisely because some Scriptures are hard to understand that “the ignorant and unstable twist” them. We must be careful of twisting Scriptures that we don’t understand. That requires that we carefully read and study the Scriptures. Sloppy, hasty reading of Scripture runs the risk of twisted interrogation and therefore stunted growth.
Second, read the Scriptures prayerfully. The Scriptures will enable us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” if our reading is attended by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Rote, academic reading of Scripture will not suffice. We must ask the Holy Spirit to show us Christ, to renew our minds, and therefore to transform our lives as we give ourselves to reading Scripture.
As you reflect on 2 Peter 3:14–18 today, thank God for the transforming power of Scripture. Commit to reading attentively and prayerfully and thereby to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.