PHOTOPHOBIA and AMNESIA
Based on a sermon preached at PCC by Pastor Jeff O’Neil on 19 May, 2002

“But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off,
and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
(2 Peter 1:9)


Someone was telling me that she had invited a friend along to the services and the friend did come for a number of weeks, and then the friend stopped coming. And upon enquiry and being asked for reasons, the friend said, “Well the sermons always seem to be directed at me,” and, of course, she said that her friend must have told the minister about her. Such is the power of the Word of God. Of course the friend hadn’t spoken to the pastor, to the minister, at all. But the Word of God is quick and powerful. And therefore her conscience had been smitten and aggravated. Now, instead of preaching concerning a few this morning, rather it is to embrace everybody. And would to God that everybody would be saying, “Who told the preacher about me?” Not some of us, but all of us, saying, “Who told the preacher about me?” Because I want to consider this morning, in the light of membership and baptism and these few brethren seeking to join the church, what should be the attitude, and what should be the conduct of all the members of the church. And, perhaps, provide a word of guidance to those who are seeking membership and future membership of the body of Christ. And so, may we all have Lydia’s heart, whose heart the Lord opened to attend unto the things spoken of Paul. Her heart was opened to the Word that Paul taught and declared unto her. And so to our chapter.


Now, in Wales, this chapter is called in the Welsh language, y pethir, and that means “the things.” This chapter is given that title; because that expression, “the things,” is used six times in the first chapter, and five times in the third chapter, and so it is called y pethir. Now we usually use this title, “the things,” for something that is nondescript, something that is miscellaneous, something that is indifferent; unimportant things. They are just things. But the Apostle Peter, he uses it for the most important and relevant features and subjects of the Christian faith.


As you read the chapter and as we go through it now in verse 3, for instance, he speaks about “all things,” that is, he is referring to everything that pertains to life and to godliness. And therefore it is vital to realise what divine power has given unto us, says Peter. Divine power has given all these things, and particularly the great and exceeding precious promises of God. Now all these things have been given to us and were in us by divine power.


And then in verse 8, he speaks of “these things.” Now he is referring to the list of graces that are found in verses 4 through 7, where you have Peter exhorting them to all diligence in adding to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. So he is saying this: these are the necessaries, these are the requisites, these things are being given unto you; and you must keep them, you must add them, you must accumulate them, in order to mature; that the Christian may be well-rounded, that he may be well-balanced by having all these graces and virtues in his or her life.


And then, in verse 9, he speaks of “these things” again. And he is referring to the lack of these graces. If anybody lacks these graces, if they are deficient of them in their lives, it becomes obvious evidence of their state and of their condition. But if these lovely virtues that are listed here are not easily evidenced, or are not being promoted in the life of a Christian, of a believer, or of a church, then it is obvious evidence of the state and condition of that people.


And then verse 10 speaks of “these things” again. And he is demonstrating the necessity of imbibing these things; of taking these things in but not retaining them within, but of doing them, of practising them. And by practising them, by manifesting them, they will be evidences of your calling and of your election. For if they are not, then it brings into question whether you have received this high calling of God, whether you are one of His elect, whether you are partaker of the election of grace. And note how serious it is, my friends, in our walk before God and our walk before each other. Whether we are accumulating these graces and developing them; or whether we are lacking them, and remaining in the same position, we are not maturing, we are not improving, in the Christian faith.


And then in verses 12 and 15, he speaks of “these things” again. And so he says, these things are so important, that he is taking pains to remind them, and indeed particularly in the light of his impending death. And you notice in verses 12, 13 and 15, he says, I put you in remembrance of them, he is keeping up the same point, he is bringing it home to bear upon their minds and upon their consciences. I want you to remember this, I am going to die, he says, and three times he insists, that you remember these things. Though you know them, he says,—and we all know them here,—though you know them, I want you to remember them.


Now, the Apostle, though he was one of the unlearned and ignorant fishermen, he was very good at Mathematics. You find in verse 2, that he speaks about multiplication and then, in verse 5, he teaches addition, adding up upon each other the various graces that should hallmark every Christian. So he is speaking about multiplication, he is speaking about addition. And these virtues, these things that he lists, they are not just deposited into your soul when you are converted, fully formed, fully matured. Yes, they are put there as seeds, the principles of grace work in us, and these virtues are planted in us. The seeds are, the propensity is, they are put in our souls, in embryonic form as it were, but they have to be nurtured, they have to be cultivated, they have to be developed in our lives. So that there is industry involved, there is endeavour involved; cultivation on the part of the believer. For that is what the word “diligence” means in verse 5. He says, when you are adding, do it diligently. It speaks of energy, spiritual energy, it speaks of spiritual endeavour that is expended; the strait gate is to be pressed into. The Christian faith, my friends, is not a faith of passivity. We are not to be passive in the things that God will work in us, we have to exert energy in the faith, we have to work out our faith.


I like the comment of Spurgeon on Psalm 77 and verse 12, and it reads like this, “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” Spurgeon says this, A meditative man must be a talker, otherwise, he is a mental miser, a mill that only grinds for the miller, and that’s no good. Rather there is to be this diligence, all diligence in activity, positive activity, not passivity. Neither is it to be a fitful employment. He exhorts here, “Giving all diligence,” not some diligence, but alldiligence. You see, the Christian is not to be lax, not to be spasmodic in his walk, not to be sporadic in his desire to mature. He is not to be indolent, he is not to be laid back, he is not to be indifferent in any way to these things in his attempt to accumulate, and to develop, and to mature these graces, but he is to give all diligence. Adding where they are missing, strengthening them where they are weak, promoting them when there is an opportunity. Now, notice here, that Peter is not giving a strict order of addition, but he is exhorting to develop these virtues one upon another, so the soul matures, and we become more after the image of Christ Jesus who created us, more Christ-like. Now, Richard Steele, a Puritan, says this, “It is as much our duty to get the second grace as it was the first.” And without our diligent co-operation, then God will leave it to our spirit without His operation, and that’s when the trouble starts in the Christian life.


Now, someone may say to me, “Now, look, I am rather a weak Christian. I look around me, and I see in the congregation that there are some who seems very strong, and they seem very positive about their doctrine; I am not like that, I am just a weak Christian. And these things that you are saying, about developing these things, I don’t seem to have a sense, I don’t seem to have the ability to do these things.” Well, my friends, in your weakness, you must make application to One who is Almighty, and who has promised this, to give “power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isa 40:29). He now draws you by promise. If you are feeling weak, then He will give strength to those who have no might, and so increase your strength.


And another may turn to me and say, “Well, look, you never told me that the Christian life is like this. You never told me that it was sorrow and heartache. You never told me that it was affliction, and that chastening will come into my life. Ever since I become a Christian, all my experience has been chastening, and affliction and trouble and sorrow in my life. You did not tell me about these things, sufficient for me that I believe. I just want to have a simple faith, I just want to believe, I don’t want all these things. What’s the minimum that I would get to heaven upon?” My friends, think you there are two ways of salvation: one for the indolent, and one for the industrious? No, it is through much tribulation that you shall enter into the kingdom of God.


The Bible makes that plain, that you ought to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” for it is God that willeth and doeth in your experience and in your life (Phil 2:12–13). So then, we are to work at adding, we are to work at developing these graces. Now, that word “add” there, in the fifth verse, has a lovely connotation. It’s speaking either of a choirmaster who leads the singing, or it’s speaking of a couple, perhaps, who going on to a dance floor, they go first, and lead everybody else out. They have these things in weddings, sometimes they have these dances, and the bride and the groom, they are the first on the floor, and they dance and everybody then comes on to the dance floor. That’s the meaning of that little word, “add”; it has that connotation. And, perhaps, that is why faith is first on the list. It says, “add to your faith,” faith is the one that is able to lead all the other graces in a beautiful unity unto the Lord. Faith is the leader of the others.


And then, in verse 8, he shows how that by abounding in all “these things” it will not only display and evidence that you are fruitful, and that you are called and elected, in verse 10; but that if you practise these things, if you do these things, then you will not fall. You see that it is a proviso, if you like, that if you leave these things apart, then the danger is you’re going to fail and you’re going to fall. But if you practise these things, if they are fruitful in your life, then you will not fall; that is, falling into your old sins from which you have been purged, as verse 9. It will prove that you are not “barren” (v. 8), he says. Now the word “barren” means idle. Calvin says this, “Knowledge of Christ is an efficacious thing, it’s a living root which brings forth fruits.” So this is proof then, of being not barren or idle, it shows that you haven’t been indolent in pursuing and accumulating all these graces in your life, and that you’re working at it.


Now, remember that the Temple itself was built upon a threshing floor; you recall, it was a place of labour, and your life is built upon a place of labour, labouring to accumulate and to develop these graces that are of vital importance to prove that you are a child of God. But then he comes to it, “he that lacketh,” but “he that lacketh these things,” he says, he “is blind, and cannot see afar off” and “hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” Now then, who is this? Well this is the kind of Christian who is at ease, who is negligent about holy things, who is backsliding, perhaps, and who is hardening in that position. And what he says about this person is this, that he is suffering not only from blindness, but with forgetfulness, with a bad memory. Now, to be without these things that are listed here, is to allow the old sins, the old nature that is opposite to these things, to rise in your life, and to surface in your life, and to reign in your life. Now if these things are not in you, what are the opposite aspects, is the question? What are the opposite of these things, then? Well, you see, it is lack of faith, lack of moral goodness; ignorance, intemperance, impatience, ungodliness, un-kindness; and the opposite of charity, is, well, hate. I can’t see that there is any middle ground. If you haven’t got love, then you hate, obviously. So, if this kind of Christian that is found in verse 9, is carrying on in his condition, then the opposite of this list of graces is evidenced in his or her life.


1. Now, first of all, blindness. Now it is possible that not only an individual, but the church, can be stricken with this. A church can develop photophobia. Photophobia is an aversion to light. And it means this, you close your eyes at the light, you can’t stand the light, you close your eyes to it, you are blind to it. And you have these two effects in the church, and in the individual. This is exampled in Revelation 3:17, the church of Laodicea. You see, the Apostle John is not writing to the world, he is not writing to just the individual believer, he is writing to the church of Laodicea, and he tells them some very forceful things. It is so forceful that if preachers were to say the same things nowadays, people in the congregation probably would leave, some of them at least. And he is looking at them, and he is saying this: You are rich, you are poor, you are miserable, you are blind; strong words he gives to the church, you are blind. And then he counsels them, to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18). That’s the remedy, that’s the answer: you need this ointment upon your eyes. Now Luke was a doctor, but John was chosen to pen the letter to the church in Laodicea. Christ is saying through John: “You need treatment, there’s something wrong with you; your eyes need doctoring, your eyes need ointment, so that you will not close your eyes to the light.” And that’s what that word “blind” in our text means, to close one’s eyes, or to feel with the hands. Because you can’t see, you’re feeling with the hands. Now we have an expression, do we not, of closing our eyes to things we don’t want to know about. That there is anobstinacy in our hearts and in our minds that even though it is put to us, we don’t want to know about it. And then, there is another expression, There is none so blind as those who do not want to see; there is a stubbornness. It is obvious to others, but to the person, it is not obvious; and they are stubborn, they are refusing, and they act against it. Now, these are worldly expressions and proverbs that are used, but epitomise a great truth. And it is exactly a picture of what a Christian or a church can develop, a kind of spiritual illness. And this is what Peter is saying, and in sympathy with John the Apostle. He says, “You are shutting your eyes to the truth, you are blind to the light, you are blind to the truth.” Now though, no doubt, they held the right doctrines, and they would speak about them, they had it in theory. But we may theorise and speculate, as much as we like, but speculation must end in practice. Sometimes when I think of Christ as a God-man, I think of ourselves in that kind of expression, the God-man, that is, we have divinity and we have humanity. And we can give divinity but we don’t give humanity in our dealings one with another. So Peter is saying, you are shutting your eyes to the truth.


2. But he also points out another condition: they can’t see afar off. Now this is a closing of the eyes, it can refer to the screwing up of one’s eyes, short-sightedness. Things that are close by, they are OK; but when you are looking at the broad picture, squinting, even as that man who saw men as trees walking (Mk 8:24). It is a kind of spiritual myopia. Now it is interesting, that expression “cannot see afar off”; the Greek word there is myôpazô, from which the word myopia is taken, the medical condition of the eye. And so Peter is saying this, “You’ve got myopia; your eyes need adjusting, there’s a correction needed in your viewing, in your gazing, in your seeing of things.” And so with the Christian, we can be terribly defective and short-sighted in our appreciation of what is happening in our own lives, and what is happening in the life of the church. Our eyes need adjusting, our spiritual sight, our spiritual eyes need enlightening, the spittle and clay, and touch of Christ is needed to heal our infirmity. We can have the sight to see the mote in our brother’s eye, but we are blind to the plank in our own. My two sons, they are entering into middle age, and they are as tall as me, much taller I think, and that’s why when I am looking at them, I start teasing them, saying, “Ah, Ah, grey hairs, middle age is coming, grey hair.” And recall Ephraim, when Ephraim looked in a looking glass, and it says this, that he knew not that he had “grey hairs… here and there” (Hos 7:9), that he could see the defects in others, he could see the imperfection in others, but he couldn’t see his own faults, he couldn’t see his own sins. And so it is, my friends, with this blindness we are talking about, this spiritual myopia.


3. But then, he says there is this condition of forgetfulness, a kind of amnesia, spiritual amnesia, forgetfulness, “forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” Oh, my friends, what ingratitude, what a state of negligence, to forget what Christ has done, to forget what His blood has effected in your life, to forget that His blood has washed you and cleansed you from all the filthiness of your sin and your condition; to forget that, is it possible? Is it possible? And to go on like that. Indeed, Calvin says, that the blood has not become a washing bath to us, that it may be defiled by our filth, making use of this, in such a way. To forget that you have been washed and cleansed from your filth, to forget that your old sins have been nailed to Calvary’s tree, and there the bleeding hands, and the bleeding side, and the bleeding feet of Christ testify to the work that He has done on your behalf. The blood and water flowed forth from His hands, the blood of forgiveness, the blood of pardon, the blood of reconciliation, the blood of the everlasting covenant; the water and the washing of the regeneration of the Spirit of God, you’ve forgotten, have you? You’ve forgotten?


I don’t know if you’ve met anyone with amnesia, as they go on into old age. It is not nice, and it rouses sympathy in the heart. When someone you loved is beginning to fail, and the memory goes, then comes grieving and sadness. They can remember vividly things in their childhood, but things that you told them one minute before, they are gone, they’re forgotten. And it is so in the spiritual realm, my friends. Yes, you can remember things that are orthodox, you can remember things that are good, things that are essential, but in practice, forget the reality and the experimental implication of pardon received, and pardon exercised. You not only received pardon, you have to exercise forgiveness yourselves. Spiritual amnesia!


When you read this list of things, and you know that there is a sphere in your life, where some of these things are not in operation, they’re not functioning, they have become redundant, or your position has so hardened,—what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it? Richard Steele writes, “Undone duty will undo your soul,” it will undo your soul. If these graces are not worked out diligently then we are but graves, wherein the original seeds were planted and have no resurrection.


One of the hardest things from my own experience,—I am talking from my own heart now,—one of the hardest thing in my experience in the Christian faith over forty years, is this thing of brotherly kindness. It’s one of the hardest things that I have to wrestle with, and grapple with in my own temperament and nature. It’s such a hard thing, that all the other things are affected by it, all the other things that are in that list. Now we can be, as Christians, most disloyal, we can be most disobedient, we can be most disappointing, out of character with our profession. And we so easily take umbrage and we can cut and maim each other, we can let each other down; we can be quick to retaliate, and we can be slow to forgive, we can even misunderstand the best of motives. You know that Caesar received his wounds from the hands of his friends, not from the sword of his enemies. And there was one, who is greater than Caesar, who was wounded in the house of His friend, even by His own familiar friend as they walked and went up into the tabernacle of the Lord, even Christ Jesus. There is nothing more damaging, and destructive and destroying, and erosive to the spiritual well being of a believer’s soul, or to the life of a church, and the vitality of the church, than the lack of brotherly kindness.


Remember Stephen. There he is, before the Jews, to be stoned to death, and he is bearing testimony, going right over the history of the Jews. And he comes to Moses, and Moses supposed that his brethren should have understood that God, by his hand, would deliver them, and as they strove together, he would set them at one again, “Sirs, ye are brethren, ye are brethren.” If that lack of brotherly kindness is missing in the church, or even declining, it freezes the grace that follows, charity—it cripples the grace that precedes, godliness—it fractures the family of God and divides the household of faith, and a house divided cannot stand. Suspicion comes in without knocking, pride rents the best room, inflexibility and hardness sit at the head of the table. When brotherly kindness vacates his humble dwelling, then the head of the house will absent Himself. Christ will only dwell in Salem, not in Babel, that is, He dwells where there is peace, and not confusion.


To exercise brotherly kindness, there must be a brotherhood. Well, for a brotherhood, there must be a fatherhood. And can we generally pray and practise this, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:9–12)? Can we pray that? For even if we pray it, does it pour easily from our lips? Listen to our Lord again, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father [in heaven] forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:15), there it is. We can carry on in our Christian life, and we’re not exercising this forgiveness; if we are not exercising this forgiveness, then the Father has not forgiven any sin that we have committed. You may go on feeling OK in yourself, but if you are not exercising any forgiveness, your Father has not forgiven your trespasses.


Here’s another test. When there is a lack of this thing, this thing of brotherly kindness, then it leaves leanness in the soul. The joy isn’t there that used to be there, there is leanness in the soul, there is dryness in the eye, there’s a hardness in the heart, there’s a sourness in the vein, there’s a reluctance in the mind, and there is sharpness upon the tongue, and there is coldness in the look to other Christians, and there is heaviness in the legs that will not take us to repair the damage. The devil is causing mayhem in churches throughout the world,—I mentioned this in the prayer meeting,—it is a season of it, that churches are divided, ministries are being blighted because of this vacuum of brotherly kindness. We are under sovereign command my friends, “Love ye one another.” “Ah, but you know what happened,…” someone objects; NO… “Love ye one another.” “Ah, but this sister or brother said….” NO… “Love ye one another.” It is a command, it’s not a promise, it is a command. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 Jn 4:20). That’s a strong word, my friends, he is a liar, “for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” And this is the commandment that we have from Him, that he that loves God, loves his brother also, not in words, but in deeds. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says this, “Don’t talk of love, walk in love” (cf. Eph 5:2). Thomas Adams writes, “Love sits at the door of the lips of many men’s lips, but has no dwelling in the hearts.”


But, my friends, when these things abound, as are we taught here, when these things abound, then there is fruitfulness (cf. 2 Pet 1:8). Then, brotherly kindness is enlarged, and it becomes the cement that binds the whole church together; it’s the leaven that vitalises the whole, it’s the fragrance that perfumes and permeates the whole of the body of Christ. “Behold, how good a thing it is” (cf. Ps 133:1), there it is again, “Behold, how good a (thing) it is, and how becoming well, Together such as brethren are in unity to dwell!” Oh, my friends, when that is the atmosphere, and the climate, and the environment of the church of Jesus Christ, then it is easy to forgive, it’s easy to forget, and to cast any difference behind our backs. And then we imitate our blessed Master, and show that we are new creatures in Christ, that we are renewed by the Spirit of God, that we are renewed after His image. And then we find it’s easy to be submissive to the Apostle’s word, which he writes in the first epistle, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity covers a multitude of sins” (4:8; italics added). And that word means to stretch out, to be elastic, and it has to be elastic to cover a multitude of sins. Oh, each one of us is a sinner, every day we sin, each one of us in our relationship to each other are sinners, and yet charity is elastic, has that elastic property, it can cover a multitude of sins.


We are to walk in love, not talk of love. One step of our feet is worth more than ten of our words; that we make that first move, that first step. And you may say to me, “Well, it’s hard, where do I start, how can I begin? It’s so against my nature, and I’ve been standing on my dignity for years, and the other has been standing on his or her dignity for years, and there seems to be this hardness and this confrontation. How can I start to exercise this brotherly kindness?” Well, it’s simple, and so simple that we forget it; and even if we remember it, we are afraid to let faith attempt it. “God never calls for a duty, but helps in it”(Richard Steele). We’re not to do it on our own, He will put graciousness in your mouths, He will put pleading in your eyes, He will put love in your heart, and the mountain that stands before us shall melt, shall become as a plain, and the crooked path shall be made straight. He will make a way if you begin the way. The journey of a thousand miles begins at the first step. Therefore, we have to listen to Peter, and let faith takes the lead. Let faith lead the singing, let faith lead the dance. For when this is effected, the soul will sing, and the spirit will dance before the Lord. Let faith lead, it must be attended by faith, faith that can create this atmosphere of brotherly kindness.


Now, we will never stand off from our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is that, when we stand off from our brethren in the faith? See, even the elder brother in the parable, he was piqued, he was jealous, yet the father taught him to rejoice over the younger (Lk 15). Love has a reconciling nature, if we say we have the love of Christ, if we say the Holy Spirit has shed abroad His love in our hearts, then love has a reconciling nature. Love will reconcile, while love will look on the things of others. How does the epistle end? Well, in the third chapter, in the 17th verse, he says this: “therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things,” there it is again, these things, ye know them. And look at the words again, you know these things “before,” you’ve learnt them, you know them, I’m repeating myself and telling them to you. But he says, “beware”; “beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12), you know these things and with that knowledge, my friends, if you continue to stand in your own strength, then it is a fall. Pride comes before the fall, is the saying.


But how do we prevent that happening? How do we stop it happening to ourselves? Well, the very last words of the epistle tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord… Jesus Christ” (3:18). There it is, you are to grow in grace, it is grace that is effective,—and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. My friends, let’s look into the record of our consciences, from the pastor to every quarter of the church, and read there the wickedness of our hearts without God. We can turn the pages of our personal history, our personal library, and we are to take stock, to take account, and we are to determine, by His grace, that we will rectify any ill. And we are enabled to say, “Well, I’m sorry for what occurred. Come, let us forgive each other”; that we rectify any ill, that we recompense any injustice, that we have done. That we heal any breach that we have noted, that we kiss any wound that we inflicted upon some dear soul; that the love of Christ may be seen and experienced, and the beauty of Zion shine forth. Oh, when we read these things, and we can, perhaps in theory, visualise them, oh, the harmony, the beauty, the wonder and the loveliness of the scene that is enacted before us. And this is incumbent upon every member, and upon every new member that is coming into the church. If you can start off in your dealings and affiliation to the body of Christ, if you can start off with this attitude of exercising and maturing in these virtues, then the harmony of the church will be an advertisement of what the grace of God in Christ can accomplish in us. Oh, dear friends, the picture is lovely. Oh, that you could strive to accomplish it. What a testimony, what a witness of the love of God in our midst. Amen.