December 4 2011 Sermon
Announce: The reading of the text will be included in the sermon, so you may be seated.
2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2Pe 3:8 ESV)
Impatience: in a fast-paced, frantic culture, it’s a problem. Impatience: as we wait through Advent days while the world around us is already acting as though it’s Christmas. Problem! Impatience: with all that God seems to let slide down here on earth. What’s His problem? But as we see from our text;
OUR CALLING TO BE THE ADVENT PEOPLE OF GOD BEGINS WITH PATIENCE AND ENDS WITH PEACE.
In our text Peter focuses on several key words: patient, perish, pass away, people, promise, and peace. (read text here) Beginning with patience and ending with peace.
Patience: Peter says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you.” Our IMpatience is really IMpatience with God’s patience. People in Peter’s day were becoming impatient with God’s patience. They were waiting for the Lord to return, but he delayed. He still hadn’t come, even after 30 years since he ascended into heaven. Some of his followers had even died, and he still had not come back. They were now facing opposition. Persecutions had begun. The believers had been scattered around the world, because it was getting too dangerous in Jerusalem. They had gone to other parts all over the Roman Empire. Paul had traveled much of the Empire and now Christianity had spread almost everywhere. It seemed that the prophecy that the word must be preached in all the world had been fulfilled. Some believers had even been killed for having faith in Jesus. Stephen was one and the Apostle James, for instance. It seemed like Christ was never going to come. They were desperate to get out of this terrible world. But he still didn’t come.
Had they been wrong? Had they put their faith in a charlatan? Was he really going to come? Some perhaps doubted. Others fell away from the faith under all the pressure of persecution and opposition to their confession of Christ. That is why Peter had to encourage them to keep on waiting. Not to give up. “The day of the Lord will come…Mark my word.”
How foolish they seem to us for giving up. But don’t we accuse God of being slow? When we face pain and sadness. When we are rejected by friends and family for confessing faith in Christ. When we spend months and years in a nursing home wondering why God has left us here and not taken us yet, are we not the ones who accuse God of being slow or perhaps even forgetting us? We begin to wonder, where is he? When our problems mount up and we can’t see a way out, we want him to come right now to deliver us from our suffering and difficulty. But he does not come. When is he going to come? We moan.
If we are not actually wanting the world to end, at least we wish he would end our problems now. Why doesn’t he just make the world and our problems all go away? Is he listening? Does he care? Can he do anything? What’s taking Christ so long?
As Peter tells us, “the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” That’s the point. It’s not that God is slow, but he is giving as many people as possible the opportunity and time to repent. “for God does not delight in the death of a sinner.” He wants all men to repent and be saved. He is patiently waiting and giving people time to repent.
Therefore, God’s patience is for a gracious and glorious purpose: “that no one should perish.” If he returned at our convenience—the first time we wanted him to come bail us out of some difficulty, think of the souls who would be lost. If he returned today, would your son or daughter go with him? Would your grandchild, your neighbor, your friend? If he would bail us out of our problems right this moment, think of the souls who would be lost! God loves them too! Christ died for them too! God wants them to be saved too! That they should not perish, but repent. That is the reason John the Baptist came—to rescue souls by preparing them with repentance.
Still, the Day of the Lord will come, and creation as we know it will pass away. Peter says, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” All that we find value in and cling to will be—must be!—destroyed. Think of all the great works; the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains. All these things gone in an instant, dissolved, burned. Your house, your car, your TV, all gone. You job, your bank accounts, your college degrees and titles. Wall street, banks, hospitals, roads and highways, gone. It will be stunning and spectacular.
Creation will pass away, but God’s word will not pass away. There is only one thing that will last, and that is the Word of God. The only sure thing, the only thing that is lasting, is God’s word. That which we hear, study, learn and receive in worship and Bible classes is the only solid and immovable thing. All else that we cling to will fail us, disappoint us, leave us with nothing.
Knowing this, what sort of people ought we to be? Peter says, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Ought we be people who scoff or doubt? No. We ought to be people who live in holiness and godliness. What do holy and godly people look like? They are people who love and care for one another. People who live together in peace and harmony. People with a passion for spreading the Word, the immortal Gospel of eternal life and salvation. People whose minds and hearts are sunk deeply into God’s holy word, because only the Word of God is eternal. Only God’s word does not vanish and fail us.
This is what we ought to be, but often are not. We have not lived as God’s people. We have lived like people of the world, hanging to the temporal and vanishing things that will ultimately fail us. Yet, for us, the Son left the splendor of paradise to live in this world that is anything but holy and godly. For us he humbled himself and became our Servant. For us the Son went to the cross and grave. For us the Son will return in glory and gather his Church. That’s a promise!
Promise: what is His promise? His promise is a new heaven and a new earth. An earth in which righteousness dwells. It will be the home of righteousness. Unlike our “creations”, unlike the temporal, artificial things we build, the things of the world we cling to and trust in, his promise is for something far greater. His promise is a new heaven and a new earth.
This is not just more of the same old thing. God is doing a whole new kind of thing. In this new heavens and new earth righteousness will dwell. All is holy and godly. There will be no more suffering, no more sadness, no more tears, no more sickness, no more death. All oppression shall cease. Injustice shall be righted. The wounds we have caused others will be healed. That is the promise. That is the assurance we wait patiently for.
And during Advent, we look back to that first Christmas. That is the assurance that God keeps his promises. All those promises that lead to the manger were fulfilled in that baby who lay in a manger. During Advent we look forward with patience to the promise still to come. That great and awesome day when this world will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Yes, what unbelievers call the end of the world, is in fact not the end, but the beginning of a new and glorious world. We will receive new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. The creation will finally be good again and the world a paradise as it was meant to be from the beginning.
Therefore, we shall be at peace. Peace! The good news is that we will be found in him. And that makes us spotless and blemish free. We will be at peace, because we are reconciled with God by Jesus’ atoning death. Therefore we have peace from Christ and through Christ and in Christ.
That makes us messengers of peace; as God is patient, desiring repentance so that no one will perish, so Advent, the time of waiting for Christ to return, is the time to prepare others. Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Leading them to repentance and faith in Christ.
God is patient, that no one may perish. Though this old creation will pass away, we will be a people waiting in holiness and godliness because we have a promise: Peace in Christ. Even in our impatience with all the things going wrong in this world, there’s nothing there that’s a Problem.