Ask a disobedient child or a wayward teen, “Do you remember when I told you…?” and you are sure to get “No” for a response.
Imagine a boss training a new employee: “This is the most important thing you will do each day. Remember to…”
Listen in to a conversation between two retired men talking over a cup of coffee at the local breakfast hangout: “Do you remember when I…”
Much of life is about remembering. Our memories are full of past events — both joyful and hard. But even more, life is about remembering to do essential tasks in the future. A husband remembers his central duties to love and nurture his wife, a father remembers to speak to his children so they are not tempted to be angry, and a man remembers to care for his neighbor as himself.
Here’s a sad reality: we remember much, but we are prone to forget the basics. And that’s why Peter writes, “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 Pet 3:1–2).
In three different ways, Peter says, “I am not writing something new; I am just reminding you of what is essential to remember at this time.” He wants to stir up — or better, “wake up” or “rouse” their minds from slumber. His words are a reminder. He desires them to remember the words that were spoken not only by him, but even more by the prophets and apostles who preceded him, and by Christ Himself.
Remember. Your tendency is to forget. Be careful to remember. Pay attention. Be diligent and alert and attentive to the essentials. Do what you must to be certain to remember. Peter is not about to disseminate new information to his readers. They already know what he is about to tell them. But they have forgotten. They are living as if they don’t know. And it is to their detriment.
Other biblical writers echo a similar theme (Phil 3:1-2; 2 Tim 2:14; Tt 3:1; 2 Pt 1:12-13; 1 Jn 2:21, 24; Jude 5, 17.). So it should be noted that ministry is often about reminding believers about what is already known. As John Stott has noted, “…there are many warnings in Scripture of the dangers of forgetfulness, and many promises to those who remember. A bad memory was one of the main reasons for Israel’s downfall. ‘They soon forgot’, we read, and ‘they did not remember’. [Ps. 106:13, 7]”
And what was Peter writing to remind his flock? Judgment is coming. The way they were living evidenced that they had forgotten that there would always be mockers who scoffed about Christ’s return (vv. 3-7). They had forgotten the lesson of Noah’s flood that just because judgment is immediate does not mean that God has forgotten about or relented from His judgment (vv. 8-9). Judgment will come. Suddenly (v. 10). And because judgment was (and is) coming, they were to be holy (vv. 11, 14-15).
The world was living as if Christ wouldn’t come and that influenced Peter’s readers to do the same. The world was not holy, and evidently the believers weren’t either. Everyone had forgotten and ignored the promise of Christ’s return and judgment. [It sounds like not much has changed from Peter’s day, doesn’t it?] And Peter’s readers needed to remember that Christ would come and He would judge and that the way to prepare for that coming is to be holy.
Remember. Christ is returning — imminently (though we know not when). Judgment is certain. Be holy.