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03/23/2020 7:29 AM

A Perilous Sleep

03/23/2020 7:29 AM
03/23/2020 7:29 AM

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present in you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder. (2 Peter 1:12-13) 

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. (2 Peter 1:1-2) 

The Greek word for ‘stir’ or ‘stirring’ means to “arouse completely, as from rest or sleep.” Peter was in prison writing to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). These exiles “were in danger of almost unconsciously dropping their enthusiasm, of losing the keenness of their discipleship, and of subsiding into a fatal sleep. The Apostle therefore seeks to ‘stir them up,' to keep them awake, to preserve their vivid apprehension of truth and their sense of the glory of the grace of Christ” (Jowett)Jowett describes this as “a perilous sleep” which so easily encroaches upon the Christian life and may be induced in many ways.” 

Seven years ago, I was looking for a new church home. Prior to this, my son PJ was interviewed by Brian Radabaugh for an associate pastor position at a church in Kansas City. Brian was good friends of the Executive Pastor of the church who asked him to interview PJ. PJ suggested I meet with Brian about DBC as a church home. So, Brian and I met over coffee. I brought my Bible and opened it to 2 Peter 1. I told Brian that I needed to be “stirred up." I found myself struggling with that perilous sleep. What was Brian’s response? He had me follow him over to DBC and walked me into the classroom where the Builders ABF met on Sunday mornings. He told me to be there Sunday. So, I did. As a result, the Holy Spirit stirred me up from that perilous sleep through DBC. 

What is so perilous about that sleep? In his book Brooks by the Travelers Way, Jowett describes four characteristics of this perilous sleep. First: a sleep which is begotten of familiarity with the truth. He writes: Here in the Word of God we have pictures of the life of Christ, revelations of His mind and disclosures of His heart. We may become so familiar with them that our attention goes to sleep. What do we need? We need to “stir up the mind,” to put some force behind it, to direct it in a strong, fresh, eager inquisitiveness. We need to put it into the attitude of “asking,” “seeking,” “knocking. If men would come to the familiar pages of God’s Word with mental alertness analogous to that which they bring to the inspection of a stock-and-share list, they would have gracious surprises…The Book promises its wealth to the wakeful. 

Second: a sleep which is begotten of decided opinions. We lose a thing when we cease to think about it. When the photographer is developing his plate in a dark room, he keeps the liquid in constant motion, moving over the face of the plate, and evolving into clearer outline its hidden wealth. Let us “stir up our minds” and turn the stream of our thought on to our accepted beliefs and our decided judgments, that the wealth of these may not remain stationary, but may reveal more and more of the hidden wisdom of grace. 

Thirda sleep which is begotten of failure. When repeated disappointment visits the life, when the “wet blanket” is frequently applied to our fervent ambitions, when the fire is damped, and enthusiasm dies out, the life is inclined to a most dangerous sleep, disappointment with results, becoming lukewarm. Is not this the peril that the Apostle Paul anticipated for young and enthusiastic Timothy? “Stir up the gift that is in thee.” Stir it into flame! Keep thy first love ardent and vigorous. Let disappointment and failure only deepen thy consecration." 

Finally: a sleep which is begotten of the enchanted ground. When difficulties appear to have vanished from our life. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes Christian and Hopeful entering an enchanted country, one with no difficulties, no obstacles, and the air tended to make them sleepy. Hopeful became very drowsy and wanted to lie down and take a nap. But Christian would not let him. “By no means,” said Christian, “lest sleeping, we never awake more. Let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober.” How did they stay awake in this enchanted land? They talked with each other. What did they talk about? They went back to the beginning in each of their lives where God began with them. Jowett describes it this way: Stir up your mind with a rehearsal of the wonders and favors of God and so far from lapsing into sleep, you shall be kept awake in a grateful song. The grace of the Lord will occupy your heart with such intensity that spiritual lapse will be impossible. 

Three times Jesus found His disciples sleeping in Gethsemane, a perilous sleep. They were about to undergo a sifting, a Satan-induced earthquake of temptation in their hearts, minds, and souls. Then all the disciples left Him and fled (Matthew 26:56b). In the days to come, these disciples were dangerously close to more perilous sleep. But remember that Jesus had prayed for them! And then the risen Christ appears to them behind the locked door and what does He do? He “stirs them up!” They will begin to remember, to be reminded of the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior. 

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