By Pastor Glenn Pease
F. W. Boreham, the famous Australian preacher, had an instructive experience in St. Paul's Cathedral. He and a friend were looking at Holman Hunt's well known painting, "The Light Of The World." The Savior stands before a closed door with a lantern in His hand, and He is knocking. Boreham said to his friend, "I have never been able to understand why Holman Hunt thought it necessary to put a lantern in the Savior's hand on such a brilliant moonlight night. The whole landscape stands out as vividly as at noonday."
Just then a stranger interpreted. "You must forgive me," he said, "But it happens that I knew Holman Hunt well, and I was with him a good deal when he was working on the painting before you. If you pardon my saying so, you have completely missed one of the main ideas he had in mind. He intended you to gather from the tangle of undergrowth on the ground around the door, that the house is standing on the fringe of the wilderness. The Savior is about to leave the open country, bathed in moonlight, and plunge into the shadowed gloom of the thickly wooded wilds. It is in preparation for His gloomy journey through the darksome recesses of the wilderness that He has lighted His lantern. He is knocking at the door not merely with the hope of being admitted, and supping with the members of the household, but in order to unite them to cooperate with Him in His mission by accompanying Him on His otherwise lonely journey."
It is fascinating to have this commentary on that painting, for it reveals the artist was aware of something that Christians tend to forget. He was aware of the fact that Jesus wants to enter the heart's door of the individual, not to love them and leave them, but to love them, save them, and recruit them for the great task of pushing back the darkness with the Gospel of light.
You would think that a Christian could never forget the purpose of Christ and His commands to take up the cross and follow Him. You would think that a Christian could never forget the cross, and the great commission to take the good news of it into all the world. But Peter says in verse 9 that Christians can even go to the point of being forgetful concerning their own cleansing from sin. Jesus implied the same when He instituted the Lord's Supper to be observed in remembrance of Him, and to show forth His death until He comes. The implication is that Christians would forget His sacrifice for their sin without a constant reminder. In this passage Peter's main concern is with the need to keep Christians reminded of what they already know.
In verse 12 he says will not be negligent to keep them in remembrance. In verse 13 he writes of stirring up their remembrance as long as he lives, and in verse 15 he says he is putting these things in writing that they might have them in remembrance after he is gone. Peter is fighting a major disease of the spiritual life. It is the disease of spiritual amnesia. The person with amnesia has forgotten his identity. He is normal in every other way, but he does not know who he is. Israel fell victim to this disease time and time again. She forgot that she was the bride of Jehovah, and the elect people of God.
Moses cried out in Deut. 32:18, "You were unmindful of the Rock that begat you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth."
In Judges 3:7 we read, "And the people of Israel did what is evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the Lord their God..."
Isaiah gave this as the reason for the sorrows of Israel in Isa. 17:10, "For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge."
God speaks in Jer. 2:32, "..My people have forgotten me days without number."
This is the common lament of the prophets. Israel has forgotten the Lord her God. It is no wonder then that she bore no fruit. Forgetfulness and fruitfulness are opposites. Peter says that if you have all of these virtues, and cultivate them, you will bear fruit, but if you lack them you will be like Israel of old, blind, nearsighted, and forgetful of God's will and deliverance.
It is important for Christians, not only to recognize the great potential they have to be fruitful, but also to be aware of the great danger they face in being forgetful. Forgetfulness is the cause of so much sorrow and folly. Why do people who have lived together for years, and who have gone through joys and sorrows together, decide to get a divorce, or do something that will lead to divorce? It is basically because they forget. They forget their vows and commitments. They forget the love they once had. They forget all of the values they shared in the past, and they ideals they were aiming for, and they look only at the present. Because it is unpleasant they forget all their obligations and play the fool.
Why do young people who have been given everything grow up and rebel, and seek to overthrow the source of their blessings? It is because they forget. They forget the sacrifice and love of their parents. They forget the motives and ideals of the past, and look only at their desires of the moment.
Why do Christians forsake the will of God? Why do they get fed up with the church? Why do they get irritable in relation to other Christians, and sinful in relation to the world? It is because they forget. They forget the love and sacrifice of Christ for sinners. They forget that Christians are still sinners. They forget the call to struggle against the forces of darkness, and to climb to the ideal of Christ likeness. They look only at the present imperfections, and they get discouraged and frustrated, and they give up. They lose the vision of the great past and the glorious future.
Peter puts it in very plain language. He says they are blind, and they cannot see afar off. Christians are so use to hearing the unsaved referred to as the blind that it is quite a shock for Peter to refer to Christians as blind. Peter is warning Christians of the dangerous power of negative thinking. He has listed all of the positive virtues the Christian must have to be a successful soldier of the cross, and a fruit bearing servant of Christ. In this verse he shows to what depth of failure a Christian can fall if he lacks these things. He can be blind, nearsighted, and forgetful. Peter's purpose in this negative language is positive, for he wants Christians to avoid this kind of failure. Knowing this can happen should make us practice preventative measures to ensure that the fruit of our lives is not blighted by these diseases. I say diseases because, though we have only mentioned spiritual amnesia, it appears that the key symptom of the unhealthy Christian life is spiritual myopia.
This is another name for nearsightedness. It is a condition in which the rays from distant objects are brought to a focus before reaching the retina, and so it is blurred. A Christian with spiritual myopia is all caught up with an entangled with what is under his nose, but he has lost the vision of the distant past and the upcoming future in God's plan. He is forgetful of the cross, and blind to the glory of the future. He is cut off from the root of the past, and the fruit of the future. He lives the limited and useless life of a dead stump, for he forgets his cleansing from sin, and the purpose for which he was saved.
Myopia is caused by a constant absorption of the eye in small things such as dim print and thin threads. The Christian who specializes in the trivial, and gets so wrapped up in the petty projects of the present that he forgets the end toward which he is to be moving, becomes a very narrow and unfruitful Christian. The Christian must have a great vision that sweeps the skies of God's purpose like a giant telescope. Peter says if you lack these virtues you are blind, and can see only what is near at hand, and so it follows that if you have them, you can see far.
John Henry Jowett likens each of these virtues to a lens on a telescope. Each one gives you more powerful vision. He writes, "Every supplied grace enlarges the spiritual vision. Every refinement of the disposition is the acquirement of an extra lens. And now I think of it, my text is like a vast drawn-out-telescope, with lens after lens added, ever contributing to the intensity and extension of its range." The mature and fruitful Christian is one with a powerful vision of the glory of God, and His ideal for man. Christians with myopia are nearsighted saints who see only the muddy mess of man's making, and they cannot see the stars of God's making. Nearsighted is a curse, and it is far more prevalent than we realize.
William L. Stidger, a famous preacher and author of numerous books, tells about his battle with the American jitters. A less dignified name he says is ants in the pants. In a ceaseless flurry of one thing after another he became restless, irritable, angry, jealous, suspicious, and finely even went to pieces in a nervous breakdown. Even a rest in California seemed to do no good. Then, just by accident, a friend invited him to go to the top of Mt. Hamilton one night to visit the Lick Observatory. They allowed him to look through the high-powered telescope, and for the first time in his life he saw the stars in plane behind plane. He writes, "With the human eye we see only stars in a single plane. But there I saw front yards full of stars, backyards, and meadows and fields of stars, rivers of stars, forests of stars, long mountain ranges of stars-stars behind stars." His friend told the astronomer of his illness, and he said, "This is the best cure for nerves I know."
And it was for him, for all the things he worried about became trivial after he had seen the stars. That vast vision expanded his horizon, and made him break away from the limits of nearsightedness. Its the same story over and over in multitudes of problems and diseases. People are self-centered, narrow minded, and live with such limited vision that they can't keep from being small, sick, blind, and unfruitful. It is all the more tragic when it happens to a Christian, for he has all these resources to cure myopia and expand his vision.
A few years ago a group of people aroused by the miseries of preventable blindness organized the Society For The Conservation Of Vision. This is what the church is to be on the spiritual level, and the Apostle Peter has given us the principles on which we are to operate. We are to go beyond the conservation of vision, however, into the field of the expansion of vision. Vision and fruit are closely linked in this passage so that we can say, the greater the vision, the greater the fruitfulness. The more nearsighted one is, the less fruit he will bear. Where there is no vision the people perish says Prov. 29:18. They perish because without vision there is no growth or fruit. Lack of vision is like lack of momentum on a bicycle. Once that is lost there is nothing to do but fall. Peter says this is what will happen to the nearsighted saint, but for the one who adds these lenses of virtue to the telescope of his character, there will be vision, fruit, and perfect assurance that they will never fall.
We need to examine our vision constantly using Peter's list as a chart. Test the eye sight of your soul by this standard. See where you are weak, and strengthen that area of your Christian life. If you do not have long range vision, and so have long range goals, you will tend to become frustrated by short range failure.
Abraham Rosenback said in his autobiography that on Feb. 14, 1493 Columbus prepared a complete account of his marvelous voyage. He wrote on a stout piece of parchment, wrapped it carefully in a piece of waterproof cloth, then placed it in a iron bound barrel, and threw it into the raging ocean. He said, "If I thought there was one chance in a million of finding it, I would take my power boat...and cruise in the neighborhood of the Azores forever."
What brings a man to a point where his birthday and book can have this kind of influence? It is certainly not nearsightedness, but rather, long range vision. The poet Edwin Markham was asked if he thought Columbus was called of God to do what he did. He replied, "Yes! I have read every book available, including the diary of Columbus, and it is clear to me that Columbus looked upon himself as a servant of God in that eventful voyage. Markham concluded a long poem about Columbus with these words:
Now let this startling thing be said;
If land had not been on ahead,
So mighty had been his gallant dare,
God's glad hand would have put it there.
When asked what he meant by these lines he said, "I mean that God in His heavens, the stars and planets in their courses, the sun and moon and stars, the seasons in their cycles, all history, time and eternity, and the very angels in heaven are always on the side of the daring, the audacious, the courageous- the man or woman who catches his vision, feels that he is God's servant, and goes ahead regardless of obstacles!"
Columbus was a man of vision, and that is why he was a man of fruitfulness. Those who were blind and nearsighted and forgetful of the adventures of the past, and of the potential of the future did nothing by which to be remembered. All of this is relevant to Peter's words here. We shall either take the high road of adventure by adding these virtues to our lives, and thereby gain a vision that pulls us even higher, or we will be content to take the low road of safety and security in messing with the mediocre, and thus, be nearsighted Christians. We will be blind to God's best both past and present, and fruitless as a tumbleweed in the future. May God help us to climb with Christ and catch the vision that will compel us, like Columbus, to launch out in search of new worlds to discover in the realm of spirituality, and thereby avoid being nearsighted Christians.