Sermon: 2 Peter 3

STORY: Have you ever been made to feel unsure something that you thought was obvious, but are led to doubt? I once saw a film of a classroom in which the teacher asks the children to put their had up if they think Mexico is north or south of the United States. Everyone except one kid put their hands up for north. After looking around confused, the one child puts his hand up as well. The experiment was supposed to show that peer pressure is so powerful that it will get us to give up even the most obviously true beliefs. All the children except one were told to put their hand up for north. The one child left out was so influenced by the crowd that he was prepared to accept a wildly false claim.

You may think that that would never happen to you. You would stay with the true belief even if no one else joined you. But consider the following. What if the belief was something less obvious to people? What if the belief was something like the second coming of Christ? Would you be so sure?

Perhaps you say, “yes. I have no doubts and if I was in a class full of people saying that Christ is not coming, I would still believe he is." I wonder if you can think of circumstances in which your strength would be diminished.

Perhaps you have just committed a horrendous sin. You are so full of guilt and are just looking for a way to ease your conscience. If there is no coming judgment, there would be no problem. In such a state, perhaps some of us would find the prospect that Jesus is not coming back attractive. Perhaps you have just suffered an incredible loss. Your grief is so overwhelming that you believe God has abandoned you. God could not be good, you say, he just can’t be, so how could he judge anything rightly? Perhaps, you have just been through an incredible time of blessing, but now find yourself going through a time of lack, of poverty even. There is no justice, you think, only the merry-go-round of meaninglessness. Perhaps life is so good; your job is great, your friends all love you and pleasure just keeps coming. The trouble is: You just don’t want it to stop. Perhaps none of these are true. Instead you find yourself just drifting along, not really thinking about anything, just keeping your head down. Hedging your bets, you think: “whichever way it turns out I’ll be okay”

We don’t know the state of mind of that child in the class any more than I know your state of mind today. What we do know is that none of us is immune to the suggestive power of others who believe that Christ is not coming back. Consider one more example:

A man who knows Jesus better than perhaps any other person alive is faced with the possible scenario that he will deny Christ. He scoffs. How could I Lord? What possible cause would I have for denying you? After only a short time Peter, like the child, raises his hand with the crowd, to blend in. So he raises his hand: I don’t know him, that Jesus.



Peter, who knows what he is talking about, has some advice for us when those who don’t believe that Jesus is coming try to pull us off track. He is not condescending to us like perhaps we were moments ago to the child who followed the crowd. He is not dismissive of the temptation to follow the crowd, to be swerved by mockers, or to be caused to fall. Rather he tells us what we must do to persevere under this kind of trial. He will tell us that there is nothing inside you, no inner strength that you have naturally, that will sustain you in your time of need. The Lord, his word, and his promise is the only thing that will keep you on track.

Turn to 2 Peter, chapter 3 and hear the word of Lord with me.

TEXT:

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.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter addresses a church whose greatest threat is false teaching. One of those false teachings is the denial of the second coming of Christ, especially his judgment. He calls these false teachers mockers, or scoffers. They find the idea of a return of Christ as the judge humorous, a silly belief. How could there be a day of the Lord when every day we know about is the same – not the day of the Lord!

Peter gives us three pieces of advice, three exhortations that will make us stand in the face of mocking:

#1 Remember the Source

ISSUE: Whose word do you trust? What people, when they tell you something, move you the most? Who is able to manipulate your thoughts? Sometimes children can make their parents think things they wouldn’t otherwise believe. Sometimes particular celebrities drive your thinking. It is not that you think they are right all the time; it’s just that they have a certain power over your thinking or they are able to make you feel foolish for believing something. They make you feel uncool or unintelligent or foolish. Mockers are subtle. They only have to imply that what you believe might make people laugh.

What words are you attending to? What is your mind attentive to on an average day? If I was to ask you if you know that the Lord is coming, most of you would say, “yes.” But if I asked you how much attention you are giving that knowledge, many of us would have to admit, “not much” or “when someone draws my attention to it.”

POINT: We should turn our attention to and recall the sources of truth – God’s messengers in the Bible.

TEXT:

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.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

EXPLANATION: We should remember two things

First, we should remember what the prophets said.

Remember the prediction of the day of the Lord especially judgment. For example, the most recent prophet John predicts that judgment is coming. Matt 3: 11-12: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

People are obsessed with identity, who is what, who is what color, gender, political persuasion. Jesus, when he comes to baptize with fire will only find two identities: those in him and those outside. Judgment is a binary division: two sides, the sheep and the goats, the narrow and the wide, the darkness and the light, the adopted children of God and the children of the devil. There is no middle ground, no fence, just a stark line drawn with perfect accuracy between those who believe and those who do not.

Remember the command of the Lord. What command? 1 John 2:23 says, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” The second coming of Christ is linked with our obedience. His saints are to prepare for his coming by practicing righteousness, to be found in love.

Second, we should remember what the word can do

By his word, the world was created. By his word the world was flooded. And by his word the world is preserved for judgment. If the word of God is powerful enough to create the world, flood it and preserve it, then it will be powerful enough to bring about the coming day of the Lord.

APP: Some are too easily pushed off track by words. They hear a something and follow too easily. Perhaps something sounds good, cool or is moving. Listen to the mockers Peter is writing about: “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” They use a pretty convincing argument: Most days are the same as previous days. It is unlikely that tomorrow will be very much different to other days. Therefore, it is unlikely that the day of the Lord will ever happen.

Do not be pushed off track by words like these, but remember the sure words of God’s spokespeople and the commandment of the Lord himself. This does not mean merely know it. I know many things that I don’t pay attention to! It means bring the word to mind.

#2 Rely on the Promise

ISSUE: He has not forgotten you. In the same way we are asked to remember what God has said we are God has no need to be reminded. His promise is as sure a certainty as it has happened already. And he promises: HE IS COMING! HE IS COMING! HALLELUJAH! You have not been abandoned.

TEXT:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

EXPLANATION: What exactly is being promised? The central promise is that the day of the Lord is coming. During the day of the Lord, which is not a literal day, there will be two aspects: Destruction and renewal.

Destruction: Heaven and earth will be destroyed, the elements will be burned, and the works of the earth will be burned up.

Let’s focus on that last one. The works of the earth are all human achievement. Think about that for a minute. All the greatest feats of man will be rendered worthless! All the great buildings, great accomplishments, great acts of courage, will be gone for good. While there is nothing wrong with great accomplishments, they are not eternal; they will one day be gone.

Some, resting on their own greatness, mock the believer. Some persecute the believer. And it makes us wonder why God delays. Sure now is the time Lord. Peter tells us that though it feels like delay to us, it doesn’t for God. God is not slow, or forgetful; nor is he in two minds, not sure when to return. He is, rather, patient. He delays in order that the full amount of people might be saved. This doesn’t mean, as some take it, that he waits until all are in fact saved, but it means he desires to save all, but is patient so that all who will be saved are saved. In other words, his delay is because of his patience not because he has forgotten his people or because he is thinking about reneging on his promise.

Renewal: He is coming. And when he comes he will bring about not only the destruction of the earth, but its renewal. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. And the new will be defined by righteousness.

APP: Do you feel forgotten today, left out, dropped from the team as if God has moved on from you? Do you doubt that he is coming, that there will be any justice? Peter tells us to rely not on our feelings but on the promise and that is as sure as you can get.

#3 Remain in the Person

ISSUE: It is terrible to watch those who give up on the promise make a wreck of their lives because they quit. Do not quit! We will want to. We will want to give up and go with the flow. We will want to avoid the shaming of the mocker. Don’t! Instead, remain in him. Be diligent, be on your guard, always looking for his coming, but remaining in peace with him, relying on the cleansing work of the gospel.

TEXT:

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

EXPLANATION: In order to persevere we should remember the source, rely on the promise but also remain in Christ. To remain in Christ is to remain obedient to him, living according to the gospel to which you were called  and growing in him, in his grace and in the knowledge of him.

We are to be found by Christ In Peace, Spotless and Blameless. These things are only possible in Christ through the gospel. The question is this morning: Are you justified? Are you in Christ, relying on his righteousness? If he came today, will he find you in peace, spotless and blameless? Are you being sanctified? Are you living a life marked by peace, godliness, always confessing your sin to him? Are you growing in the grace of Christ and the knowledge of Christ?

The antidote to being carried away and falling is our godliness. Our growth in godly living according to the gospel and our growth in grace and the knowledge of Christ will make us the people who won't put up our hands and deny him even if everyone else does.

Our confidence for our ability to stand does not come from a natural strength. It is not from being a stand up guy or a strong man or woman or from being clever or from being anything apart from Christ. Instead our confidence is in the word given to us, the promises made to us and the person through whom we are saved and kept by grace. And the one who sustains us is no stranger to the sound of the scoffer:


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