“Where Is This Coming He Promised?”     2 Peter 3:1-9            June 24, 2012

 

SI:  We have three more weeks in 2 Peter. 

Before we begin this final chapter, let’s review the theme of this little letter.

   The big theme is the Christian life.

   One of the most encouraging, motivating descriptions of the Christian life in NT.

 

Specifically, the point that Peter presses home is that as a Christian,

   you have divine power that gives you everything you need for life and godliness.

By virtue of your union with Christ, the new birth and the work of the Holy Spirit,

   you have supernatural power for moral and spiritual transformation.

What are the things about yourself you want to change? 

   Where do you want to grow?  In what virtues and graces?

   How do you want to be a better parent, spouse, friend, Christian?

   What sins do you want to put behind you?

   Where do you need more love, patience, joy, and self-control?

Peter says:  You have divine power for change.

 

And the way you bring that power to bear on the actual nitty-gritty of your life, is

   through the promises of God.  He calls them the great and precious promises.

God’s promises in his Word are the conduit of divine power.

   As you know them, believe them, trust them, make decisions based on them,

   allow your attitude to be shaped by them, view life through them—

   you will be transformed.

 

That’s the reason Peter got so wound up in chapter 2, the chapter where he blasts

   false teachers in the church.  Because false teaching undermines our knowledge of

   and confidence in the word of God.  So there is no power for transformation.

 

Now, in chapter 3, Peter brings these two concerns together in one final,

   specific application.  The greatest and most precious of all God’s promises,

   is the promise of Christ’s return.  The Second Coming and all it implies.

Don’t ever let scoffing and false teaching undermine your confidence in that

   promise.  Let’s jump in.


 

INTRO:  I grew up in a very sleepy little town. 

Compared to Tuscumbia, Cullman is positively rocking. 

   I don’t think anything has changed in Tuscumbia since the Civil War.

You know the old saying about rolling up the sidewalks at 5:00?

   Downtown was so quiet in the evening, that we would ride our bikes right down

   the middle of main street, and the kids in my neighborhood would sometimes get

   together and play hid and seek in the streets and alleys. 

 

But in the spring of 1980, the sleepy little town of Tuscumbia, Alabama, woke up!    

   Everyone was talking about the same thing.

Word had reached the town that in a few months, in the summer, something big,

   something unprecedented in the history of the town was going to happen. 

1980 was an election year and the President of the United States of America

   announced he was coming to Tuscumbia. 

Jimmy Carter officially kicking off re-election campaign with speech in our town. 

 

It was truly the talk of the town. 

Every day there was some reference to it in the paper. 

Meetings held, plans made, beautification projects approved, kicked into high gear. 

   Everybody knew that the eyes of the nation would be on Tuscumbia.

   As the date approached, people put out American flags and decorated yards.

 

I know this sounds impossible in our current political climate—

   but everybody was excited—no matter how they planned to vote in the fall.

   I was only 15 at the time but I don’t remember hearing any cynicism.

My parents were not planning to vote for Carter, but they were just as excited

   as those who were.  In fact, my dad got us front row seats. 

The President of the United States of America was coming to our town!

   We couldn’t help talking about it and getting ready.

 

The promised coming of a president or some other dignitary or famous person

   is, in a sense, more than just words—it is a conduit of power.

   It motivates people to look at themselves and their town and get ready.

In this last chapter of Peter’s letter he returns to the theme of chapter one.

   Peter said that God has given believers very great and precious promises. 

   The Bible is full of promises that God makes to you.

As you find those promises in the Bible, make them your own, remind self of them,

   trust them, apply to your challenges—God’s promises become conduits

   of his power for the moral and spiritual transformation of your life.

I’m sure most of you could name a favorite promise in the Bible.

   “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  

   “All things work together for good for those who love God, who have been called . . .”

   “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

In chapter three Peter focuses on the greatest promises in the Bible—

   the promise of Jesus Christ’s second coming.

Peter knew that when Christians have a lively, confident expectation of Christ’s

   return, they are empowered to grow in grace and add to their faith.

 

If you have a lively, confident expectation that one day the trumpet will sound,

   the skies will be rolled back like a scroll and every eye will see Jesus Christ

   coming in radiant glory on the clouds with all the host of heaven—

And if you truly believe that on that day his holiness will be so terrifying

   that unrepentant people will beg the mountains to fall on them so they don’t

   have to look at his face—

And if you truly believe that Jesus will judge all men—and say to those on his left,

   depart from me into eternal fire and everlasting death,

   and to those on his right, enter into the blessed kingdom of my Father.

 

If you have a lively, confident expectation of these things—it wakes you up.

   It becomes a conduit of power to resist temptation.

   It becomes a conduit of power to put away your idols and live a holy life.

   It becomes a conduit of power for love and joy.

 

But Christians have a common problem.

   We don’t always have a lively, confident expectation of Christ’s coming.

   We let the promise of Jesus coming go stale in our hearts.

Even though we believe it as a matter of doctrine, not on our minds and hearts.

   It doesn’t thrill us and frighten us and motivate us to holy living as it should.

That’s Peter’s particular concern in verses 1-9.

 

He identifies two things that cause Christians to let this promise go stale in hearts.

   (sermon points)  1.  Scoffing from the outside.  2.  Discouragement from within. 

   Concerned that Christians understand and be able to answer each one.

 

What I hope you see, especially second point, is that a lively, confident expectation

   of Christ’s coming will help you believe all the other promises as well. 


MP#1  Scoffing from the outside

Verse 3:  First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come.”

The last days are right now.  We are living in them.

   The last days are a biblical name for the Gospel Age—

   this time period between Christ’s first and second coming.

Peter says that the last days are going to be characterized by scoffers

   who will scoff at the idea of Christ’s coming.

 

Let’s talk about scoffing in general.  How does it make you feel?

   When another person mocks, when they ridicule, when they make certain things

   about you the object of derision, what effect does that have on your spirit?

I remember once hearing a mother tell how her child had a shirt that she really

   liked.  You know how you always have favorite items of clothing.

   This little girl had a shirt of some kind that she really liked to wear.

And then the mother noticed that she didn’t wear it any more.  Just stopped.

   She asked her, Don’t you want to wear your favorite shirt?  No.

Mom pressed her and found out that another girl in her class had been mocking

   her about it.  You always wear that shirt.  Don’t you have any other clothes.

   That is such a dumb shirt.  And because of that, this little girl lost confidence.

She might have still liked the shirt, but the pleasure was gone and her confidence

   and pleasure in wearing it gone.  That’s what scoffing does, shakes confidence. 

 

Scoffing doesn’t convince Christians that the Second Coming is a myth,

   but it can wear a Christian down so that he or she no longer has a lively

   confidence in Christ’s return—a pleasure and joy in it.

The practical side of this is that he starts to view life no differently from people

   around him.

 

When Peter says, “you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come”

   he is really warning Christians not to let these criticisms of Bible wear down.

   Because they can.  If you hear them enough, don’t answer them, they affect you.

To encourage Christians Peter shows the basic argument scoffers use,

   then he exposes the real motive for their scoffing.

   If Christians remember these—great help in keeping perspective.  Look at each.

 

1.  The basic argument that scoffers use is the unchanging laws of nature.

   Verse 4:  They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our fathers died,

   everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 

Isn’t that encouraging?  Doesn’t that put things in perspective?

Even though Peter wrote this letter 2000 years ago, this same argument being used.

   You Christians have faith, we have science.

   You can talk about religion, we’ll talk about the laws of nature.

Read recently, I think in National Geographic, how the world is going to end.

   As the sun begins to run out of fuel, it will expand and engulf the earth.

   That will happen in 30 million years—unless hit by giant asteroid first.

That’s science.  If you want to talk about Jesus coming with trumpets and angels—

   that’s wishful thinking.

 

What is Peter’s answer to this argument?  Verse 5

   But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth

   was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was

   deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire,

   being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

He says to Christians—don’t fall for this argument.

   When scoffers say—you have faith, we have facts—

   recognize that these scoffers aren’t objective like they claim to be. 

They indulge in same wishful thinking accuse Christians of. 

   Because they start with a leap of faith. 

   Their leap of faith is—there is no God, only nature.

   Which, of course, can’t prove.  Deliberately believe this and resist all evidence.

 

And isn’t it fascinating that Peter focuses on God’s word? 

   By God’s word the world was created,

   by God’s word the world will be judged and renewed. 

When Dr. John Lennox spoke to us several years ago about faith and science,

   he said that one thing the atheistic materialism of the academy cannot account

   for is information.  How information is transferred between two minds.

How in every system of nature there must be an input of information from outside.

   Here it is, the word of God. 

  

Peter also mentions Noah’s flood. 

Not so that Christians can produce evidence for the flood.

   But just to remind Christians that there is nothing illogical about believing

   in the promise of Christ’s second coming.

If God made the world, and made people, then he can certainly determine its end

   and judgment.  Flood just one time God intervened in judgment.  He will again

 

2.  The real motive for scoffing is a desire for moral autonomy.

That’s a fancy way of saying:

   I don’t want anybody to tell me that what I am doing is wrong.

   “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”

 

What does Peter say drives these scoffers—their evil desires.

If you have an evil desire, what is the last thing you want to hear?

   That God is holy, that he hates sin, and that he has appoint a day to judge world.

   That is the worst thing in the world to hear.

So scoffing at biblical truth is a motivated by a desire to do what one wants.

 

Peter tells Christians this to put a little steel in your spine when hear Christian

   faith scoffed at.  No matter how scientific or philosophical language is—

   it is not an honest criticism but a desire to avoid moral responsibility.

I want to read to you the words of a scoffer who admits this very thing.

   Aldous Huxley was an outspoken atheist, writer, scholar—early 20th century.

   He attacked and scoffed at Christianity and the Bible.

   Argued philosophically that there is no God and no meaning.

But listen to what he wrote about his motive.

   “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning, consequently assumed that it had

   not, and was able without difficulty to find satisfying reasons for that assumption . . . For

   myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual

   and political.”

That is a rather amazing admission—Huxley’s scoffing was motivated by his desire

   to do whatever he wanted sexually and support whatever he wanted politically. 

   “Scoffing and following their own evil desires.”

 

Peter’s concern is that Christians will get worn down by the constant drumbeat

   of scoffing and the promise of Jesus second coming will become stale—

   because it won’t really seem real, or maybe become vaguely ashamed.

Scoffing is louder at different times and places.

   Christian students who go to many universities will hear scoffing very loudly.

   The biblical view of history and morals and everything else will be under ridicule.

You don’t hear those voices as loudly in a place like Cullman—

   but it’s part of the drumbeat of a secular culture—evolution, naturalism—facts.

Creation, redemption, judgment—these are faith. 

 

If you lose confidence in the second coming and it becomes a stale promise—

   will miss on one of the great conduits of power for Christian life.

 


MP#2  Discouragement from within

After addressing scoffing from the outside, Peter deals with discouragement from within.  In verses 8 and 9 he shifts away from the argument of the scoffers

   and deals with the discouragement of believers.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends”  He is talking to believers.

 

Apparently these scoffers, who where the false teachers of chapter 2,

   had at one time been members of the church and professing Christians.

So they knew the teaching of Christ and the apostles, knew the Old Testament.

   And they took special delight in pointing out the apparent inconsistencies

   of the Bible—especially all the promises of Christ’s second coming.

“Where is this coming he promised?”  They asked in a mocking way.

 

But Christians were asking the same question.

   See from this that Christians and enemies of Christianity may ask the same

   questions—but one asks to scoff and evade God’s moral authority,

   and the other asks because he is genuinely perplexed.

Do you see the difference?  Can ask any questions we want about the Bible and

   Christian faith, as long as we ask with a genuine desire to know.

 

The early Christians had a vivid expectation of Christ’s return.

   They were looking forward to his return with lively confidence.

   But as years passed, persecution, began to ask why Jesus hadn’t returned yet.

Peter gives these Christians two answers to their discouragement

   that Jesus had not yet come as he promised.

 

“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

What does that mean?  One ancient church father said it means that Jesus will return

   in the year 6000 AD.  There were six days of creation, and God rested on the 7th.

A day is a thousand years, after one week of 1000 year days, Jesus will return on

   the dawn on the 7th day.

   What do you think of that?  That’s the exact opposite of what this means.

 

It means Christians shouldn’t try to set dates for Jesus’ return.

Did you follow the new story last year about the Christian radio preacher

   Harold Camping, saying that Jesus was going to return, I think October 2011.

   His followers sold their possessions and went on a bus tour around America.

They were stunned when the Lord did not return and Camping had a stroke.

Easy to criticize Christians who set dates for Jesus’ return, but don’t you find

   yourself doing the very same thing with other promises of God?

You want God to do something right away, become discouraged when doesn’t.

   Lord, the Bible says:  “Weeping may endure for a night—joy comes in the morning.”

   I’ve been weeping for months—where’s the joy you promised?

   When are you going to do something, God?

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things added.”

   I’ve sought your kingdom, I’ve been obedient to your command to marry only

   a Christian, so why haven’t you given me a husband or a wife? 

I don’t like your timing, God. 

 

What I want you to see is that Peter’s answer to these Christians who were

   discouraged that Jesus had not returned can be applied to any time you find self

   discouraged that God is not answering promises when and how you want him to. 

Peter is really saying something bigger.  God is God.

   You cannot understand the mind and plans and timing of God.

   “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55

Lord has given us a promise that he will return to judge the world

   and usher in the new heavens and new earth.

Has given many other precious promises as well.

 

You must believe the promise—part of that is humbly accepting God’s timing.

   Can you do that?  Can you accept God’s timing? 

I was a General Assembly this past week, got to see some seminary friends I hadn’t

   seen in years.  One was telling me how he had begun to work on a post graduate

   degree that he thought would help him in the ministry.  He had most of his

   course work done, but then things happened, and he couldn’t continue.

There were a lot of details to the story, but in short, he was frustrated.

   He was struggling to accept God’s timing.  This is a good thing, God.

   Good for me, good for the church, good for my future effectiveness.

Why not now, God?  Why don’t you remove the barriers?  God is God, trust timing.

 

Second answer to the question, why hasn’t Jesus come yet is:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

Peter is saying that Christ will return when the moral and spiritual conditions are

   right—in particular, when every lost sheep is found, all elect come to salvation.

 

This is a mystery.  God has set the day and hour for Christ’s return.

   Nothing can change or delay Christ’s coming.

   Yet the Lord is waiting for certain moral and spiritual conditions to be fulfilled. 

Throughout the Bible you see the same thing—God sovereignly decrees a day for

   judgment and salvation—then he waits until the conditions are right.

 

He decreed judgment for Noah’s generation but waited 120 years for Noah

   to preach repentance and mercy.

Sent Jesus into the world at Christmas when the time had fully come.

When will Jesus Christ return?  Never given a date, but given a condition:

   “This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all the world and then the end will come.”

When the world has heard the Gospel.  When all the elect are brought into the fold.

   One old minister said:

   The Lord will not return until the last toenail is added to the Body of Christ. 

 

Think this says something about the fulfillment of many of God’s promises to us.

   He is waiting for the perfect time—not a date, but when a moral and spiritual

   condition in our lives is met. 

A Christ Covenant member was once telling me about his discouragement over

   a situation.  He had claimed a promise of God, he had prayed, was still suffering.

He said, “I hope I learn whatever God is trying to teach me real soon because this

   is killing me.”  Even though I don’t think God was killing him, I do thing he had

   something right—it’s not a matter of a date, but of a moral condition.

God wants to accomplish things in you by waiting.

 

When I was a child we had a fence in the backyard with milkweed growing on it.

   One supper, my sister and I found Monarch butterfly caterpillars. 

We put them in a jar and they turned into a chrysalis.  Then, over time, the

   chrysalis became clear, could see the butterfly folded up inside.  The day they

   hatched, one seemed to be struggling, so I tried to help him out, speed process.

He came out, but wings never unfolded.  I had stunted him.

   Apparently, it’s the time and struggle that is necessary for the full transformation. 

  

God is not slow in keeping his promise—he is patient—not wanting any to perish.

   That’s not just true of promise of Christ’s coming—true of all promises.

He’s not slow, he is patient, not wanting any of his children to miss the moral

   and spiritual transformation necessary for their good and his glory.

How do you keep perspective when you are dying for God to keep promise now?

   By keeping your eye on the big promise—Christ’s Second coming. 

CONC:  Martin Luther said he had just two days on his calendar—

Today and “That Day.”

 

Today is the day your alarm goes off at 5:00. 

   Your mind begins to whir with all you have to do to keep household running,

   caring for your children—school and meals and clothing. 

Today is the day you have meetings and look over financial reports and consider

   business proposals and deal with people pleasant and difficult.

Today is the day you mow the grass, wash the car.

Today is the day you go to church and worship with God’s people.

Today is the day you pursue the various callings the Lord has placed on your life.    

 

“That Day” the day of Christ’s return. 

Luther was saying:  I live my todays as if Jesus were coming tomorrow.

 

What did that look like for Luther?  He loved his wife, his Katie.

   He worked hard in all of his callings, he ministered to people,

   he loved the Lord.

He believed so vividly in Christ’s return, had such confidence in that promise—

   trusted God for the timing, ignored the scoffers—

   translated into confidence in all the other promises as well.

And he accomplished much, in spite of his very well-known personal weaknesses.

 

What about you?  How many days are on your calendar?  Just two? 

   Today and That Day.

Or has it been a long time since promise of Jesus coming lively in heart?  Why?

   Could it be that you have let scoffers or discouragement make promises stale?

 

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness.  Use Scripture—as Peter says—

   to be stimulated to wholesome thinking—and claim again,

   with lively confidence, the promise of Christ’s coming.