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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Live in Expectation of the Day of the Lord!
Text:2 Peter 3:10-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-02-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 9:1,4,5                                                                                     

Ps 37:1,2

Reading – Luke 12:35-48; 1 Peter 4:7-11; 2 Peter 3

Ps 75:1,2,4,6

Sermon – 2 Peter 3:10-13

Hy 71:1,2

Hy 67:1,5,6,7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, one day this world is going to end. On that day, “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and “the elements will melt with fervent heat.” What’s more, on that day, you and I and everyone will stand before Christ’s throne. There we’ll be judged: Have we believed in him as our Saviour, and served him as Lord? On that question, will we live forever in blessedness, or will we die in misery?

We know it’s coming. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that it’s true: “I believe that Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead.” We know that—but so what? What difference does it make for today? Do we really think much about eternity?

For most of us, it may not be something we dwell on a whole lot. Perhaps we do, when we’re going through a serious illness or we’re facing some other trial. When a loved one has passed away, then we’ll think about things like our glorious future. But more often, eternity seems a long way off, and not that relevant. For generally we like this earth, and usually we enjoy this life. There’s many blessings to take pleasure in today.

Yet God doesn’t want us to be near-sighted, to notice only those things right in front of us. We’re pilgrims, after all—looking for a better homeland. We belong to Christ, after all—not just for now, but forever. Meanwhile, this present life is so frail and passing. So God wants us to keep our eyes on the clock: to know that the end is drawing near. He wants us to see this, and to live differently because of it! As Peter writes, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be?” (3:11). And then he tells us: We ought to live holy and godly lives, as we look for and as we hasten the coming of Christ’s day. That’s our theme,

Live in expectation of the Day of the Lord!

  1. looking for its sudden arrival
  2. making our holy preparation
  3. trusting God’s sure promise

 

1) looking for its sudden arrival: There must’ve been a lot of excitement in those first years of the church. That’s because many expected that the Lord Jesus would return very soon! It had all happened so fast. Christ had been crucified; He’d risen from grave; He’d ascended into heaven, and then sent his Spirit. In the midst of all this drama, the believers thought the final act had to be just behind the curtain. Jesus had even promised that He wouldn’t be long in returning. They were sure that it was only a matter of time.

Weeks passed. Months, then years. When the apostle Peter writes his second letter, it had already been about three decades since Christ left—that’s a long time. And still the end hadn’t come. This was discouraging for the believers, a dampening of their excitement. Think of what Paul writes to the Thessalonians. He writes to cheer them up. For they were upset: some of their brothers and sisters had recently died, and Christ still hadn’t returned! Were those believers now going to miss out on the coming glory? So Paul insists that the Lord is still coming; and the first thing He’ll do is raise the dead, and take his loved ones to himself.

Also in Peter’s second letter, he has to rebuke some who said the end wasn’t going to happen. Some false teachers had snuck into the churches, and this was one part of their heresy. They were saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (3:4). From what seemed like a delay in Christ’s return, they concluded that He wasn’t coming after all.

As false teaching so often does, this heresy affected their behaviour—and changed it for the worse. Think about it: If Christ isn’t coming, if there’s not going to be a final judgment, why not live however you like? You won’t have to answer for it. This is how Peter describes these teachers: they walk “according to their own lusts” (3:3). Or in chapter 2: they “carouse in the daytime” (v 13), they have “eyes full of adultery,” and “hearts trained in covetous practices” (v 14). When the Lord continued to stay away, it gave a false sense of security. Life was all about today, the gratification available in the moment—because tomorrow doesn’t matter.

It’s not so different in our time and culture. There might be a vague idea of a coming Judgment Day, and every once in a while someone dares to predict the day of Christ’s return. But then the end doesn’t come, and in people’s minds it just reinforces that godless attitude: “Where is the promise of his coming? It’s not going to happen, so let’s live for today.” If you’ll never have to give an account of your life and the choices you’ve made, then why wouldn’t you do as you please?

The apostle realizes the danger of this thinking, so he responds forcefully. He points out that such an attitude is deliberately unaware: “For this they willfully forget…” (v 5). People are forgetting that God already judged the world once for its sin. He did that in the Flood, when He wiped out almost every living thing. God judged before, and He’ll do it again, this time with fire.

And when? God’s timing is very different than our timing: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness” (v 9). God isn’t compelled to do things whenever they seem right to us; He does all things according to his perfect counsel. It might seem slow, but God won’t delay one second beyond the appointed time. His great day is most certainly approaching: it’s closer now than when we first believed!

That’s a reminder we need too. For maybe we’ve never doubted that He’ll come back—it’s in our creed, after all—but maybe we’re not doing very much with that truth. As we said, when times are good for God’s people, or when we’re immersed in all the duties of this life, there’s a danger that we take our eyes off the horizon. Are there really any serious thoughts in your mind about eternity with Christ? Is it something you consider? Or has it been crowded out because of the busyness that fills our days?

Scripture warns us to keep alert, to stay awake. Don’t be like the rest of the world, unprepared for Christ’s return, and asleep in sin. It might even be tomorrow that we have to appear before the Judge. So to those who are unprepared and complacent, Peter echoes Jesus’ own words, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (v 10). A thief never breaks in when you’re waiting up for him in the kitchen—no, it’s always a surprise! So for Christ’s return. When people are sleeping, feeling secure, busy with themselves, He’ll come. And for those who aren’t ready, his visit will be a total disaster.

It’s a loaded phrase that Peter uses in our text. “The day of the Lord” is often used in the Bible to describe the sudden activity of God, especially when He comes in judgment. In the Old Testament prophets, “the day of the Lord” was a day of unequaled distress. It was a day when the LORD would suddenly come and vindicate his Name, destroy his enemies, and establish his kingdom forever.

That day is dramatic in our text, too: “the heavens will pass away with a great noise” (v 10). The Greek word for “great noise” means a whistling or a crackling sound—like when you throw a piece of wood on the campfire: it’s the sound of objects being consumed. And it’s a fire that we speak of, for “the elements will melt with fervent heat” (v 10). When Peter speaks of “elements” here, he probably means those basic materials that the world is made out of: rocks, metal, wood, water. All things are put into the fire.

Peter continues, “Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (v 10). Note this time the phrase: “the works that are in it.” Not just the creation, but also the material achievements of mankind will be burned. This world’s proudest accomplishments, whatever they are—their grandest buildings, their finest technologies and best works of art—all must pass through the fire. It’s a fire that will consume everything stained by sin. Like Revelation says, “the former things will pass away.”

It’s a picture of fiery judgment. And one of the things that fire does is reveal whether an object can last. That puffy marshmallow over your campfire is not going to endure more than half a minute. That chunk of wood will do only a bit better. But that rock you drop in will definitely be there in the morning. This is why precious metals are put into intense fire. The fire burns away impurities and leaves only the gold or the silver—that’s what endures. There’s an aspect of this in God’s judgment too. When all things are put ablaze, their worth is being tested.

“Burned up….” Literally, Peter says that they’re being “laid bare” for evaluation, and everything is stripped away for appraisal. This is what can make the last day so terrifying: it’s not only a time of upheaval, but a time of exposure. The Lord’s fire reveals what the character of a thing really is. That which is sinful will not last. That which is worthless or empty will be completely dissolved.

So are you ready for all things to be tested and revealed? Do you think there are some things in your life that will be shown as worthless? Are there some works you’re busy with that have no value beyond an instant of pleasure? Or have you been putting your trust in earthly things that won’t last beyond the great fire? Finding your hope and security in them?

And what will endure? What will not melt and crumble when Christ returns? Does that kind of eternal cause receive your attention? Are you busy with things that will last? Peter wrote about this in his first letter; he speaks there about “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (1 Pet 1:4). Only when we believe in Jesus Christ are we in line for a lasting, imperishable inheritance! And already today, if we have faith, says Peter, that is “much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire.” For faith alone “will be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7).

That’s what we wait for eagerly. No matter how it seems to us, Christ isn’t coming back one day in the far distance. No, He is ready to come back! As Peter also said in his first letter, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet 4:7). Already now, you can hear the footsteps of the Lord. In these last days, we see human kingdoms rise and fall. Disasters multiply. Persecution of believers becomes routine. Wickedness increases. We know that even now, Christ stands ready to return and start a fire. So what would He have us do? With Judgment Day within our sight, how are we to live? He calls us to make our holy preparations.

 

2) making our holy preparation: If denying the return of Christ has a real effect on how a person lives, then affirming it must do the same—but for the better. So what does the day of the Lord mean for our calling in the present time? How do we react to that coming judgment? Notice how Peter doesn’t hit the panic button. He is hopeful, and resolute.

See how he draws out his lesson. Verse 11: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved…” As readers of Scripture, we should know to put great importance on any “therefore” that we come across. This one points us backwards to verse 10 and that coming judgment of melting, burning, and dissolving. Peter has just told us that nothing will be exempt from this fiery purification, and no evil will escape the furnace.

Because that’s about to happen to all things, “what manner of persons ought you to be” (v 11)? If you affirm that Christ is coming again, what’s the consequence? It should be obvious! The manner of our life should be one of godly conduct. You can put it this way: because we await the final purification, today we should be increasing in purity. Because we look for the home of righteousness, already now we should live in righteousness.

The Spirit says that preparing to meet your Saviour isn’t just an activity for end-of-life. It’s for all of life, from the time of our youth, through middle-age, and into our twilight years. “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (v 11). That’s the constant effect it must have: “holy conduct.” Don’t live like tomorrow doesn’t really matter. Don’t act like this world is all we’re going to get. Instead, keep eternity in view so that you remember to keep separate from sin. Isn’t that the call we hear throughout Scripture? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

When children are growing up, their parents sometimes make them think about this. They might ask, “Would you want the Lord Jesus to come back when you’re doing that? Would you be happy to see him at such a moment, or would you be ashamed?” It’s a good question. Not that we need to live in fear, but in an awareness of what we’re doing. Is our conduct holy, every day, every night? Is the way we’re acting appropriate to the kingdom of Christ?

And our manner also ought to marked by “godliness.” This means that a spirit of reverence for God must fill a Christian’s attitude. Godliness is standing in awe of God every day, and striving to be like God. It’s how He made us in the beginning, and that’s what He’ll restore us to be: like him!

 This really ought to change how we live. Like Paul says somewhere else, “Therefore we make it our aim… to be well pleasing to him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:9). Because Christ is coming, and because He’ll be judging, we strive to be well-pleasing. We’re going to see him soon.

Let’s make this more practical. That’s what Peter does in verse 12. Still describing the manner of our expectant life, he says that we should be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Judgment Day might terrify the ungodly, but it should excite the holy. We are “looking for” it, Peter says, not knowing when it may occur, but expecting that it will. And we’re willing to wait for as long as it takes, because it’s our hope and joy.

Second, Peter says, we “hasten” it! We speed its coming, try to bring it about. It’s as if Peter asks us: “Do you long to see your Saviour again on the clouds of heaven? Then make it happen! Be involved in the work of building his kingdom, and spreading his Name!” Try to make Christ’s day come sooner. To be sure, God has that eternal timetable, fixed and unchangeable. But isn’t it also true God works out his plan through his people? His kingdom comes through us! So hasten the day of God!

So what can we do for this cause? We read from 1 Peter 4:7-8, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Notice that other “therefore.” The end of all things is at hand, therefore you must be serious, and you must be watchful as you pray.

We have to be “serious” in these days, says the Spirit, because this life and what we do with it is eternally important. It’s not a time for endless joking, for meaningless distraction—it’s a time to be serious about serving God. We also have to be “watchful,” because Satan’s time is short. He’s doing everything he can to destroy Christ’s church, so be on guard for his temptations. And in that awareness, Peter also says, “pray.” That’s probably a good indicator of just how much—or little—we think of Christ’s return. Do we pray for it? If we’re looking for eternity, we will learn to make this our regular prayer.

The end of all things is at hand, “therefore… have fervent love for one another.” In these dark days, this is exactly what’s needed in the church. As we wait for the end, we need to be bound together. We want to support each other, and help each other endure. Living in communion is part of living in expectation.

In all things, we seek to hasten Christ’s coming. This is what our Saviour taught us in the parable from Luke 12. He said we’re to be like servants, busily working while we wait for the master: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning” (v 35). The master has gone away—he’s even been away for a long time. So those servants might be tempted to slack off, and take up their own pursuits. That’s what some of them do.

But, says Christ, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching” (v 37). Because if they’re watching, they’ll also be working. Christ our Master is gone. But He’ll return. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v 40). He’s coming again, and in his absence, we’ve got so much work to do. There are prayers to send up. There is love to give. There are gifts to share. There is a gospel to announce to the lost. There’s a church to build up. Will we be working hard when He returns?

After our text, Peter continues to work out the implications of Christ’s return. Verse 14: “Therefore [yet another therefore!]… looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless.” Because we’re looking forward to the day of the Lord, aim to be at peace with God. In your life let there be no spot or blemish of unconfessed sin.

There’s urgency in that command. We shouldn’t leave any business unfinished. Maybe there’s something in our family that we ought to resolve. Maybe there’s a sin we should repent from—then we should do it, today. Don’t wait for the conditions to be just right. Don’t wait to build up the courage. Tomorrow may be too late. Any day, every day, we ought to be ready: ready to be found at peace with God.

For this much is certain: Whether it’s next week or it’s the next century, the Master will return! And when He knocks, will we be ready to open the door? When He shows up, will our lamps be burning, bright and clear? It’s a serious thing. Think of how Jesus describes the one who didn’t live in expectation: “That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). But for those who live and work in expectation, we can trust God’s promise.

 

3) trusting God’s sure promise: Whenever we suffer in this life, when we go through some God-given trial or adversity, the Lord comes to us and says, “It’s going to get better.” And whenever we enjoy this life, and receive God’s many gifts and blessings, the Lord also comes to us and says, “The best is yet to come.”

Because as Christians, we have a great hope and a future. After talking about those dissolving heavens and melting elements, Peter writes, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (v 13). It’ll be so different from before, for in the new creation only righteousness shall dwell: nothing broken, nothing evil, nothing to cause grief or disappointment.

Here Peter connects with those old promises of God. Take Isaiah for example, who wrote the LORD’s word, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (65:17). That’s God’s promise, and we “look” for it, says the apostle. That is, we count on it. We’re confident, because we know God won’t disappoint us or go back on his Word.

And that gives us a great purpose for as long as we live. When we’re old, and when you’re young, we know that we’re going places. We know this life isn’t just about the pursuit of earthly things and worldly pleasures. It’s not even simply about those good things like church and family and faith. Because these imperfect things are a part of something much bigger: God’s great plan to restore his creation perfectly through the Son.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we take our place in that glorious plan. For this is how Jesus described the master’s response to his faithful disciples in Luke 12. It’s actually remarkable, for there’s a reversal of roles: “I say to you that [the master] will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (v 37). When he returns, the master will put on the clothes of a servant, and the master will see to the needs of his workers. In the end, the master will even serve a fine meal to his servants.

That’s what Christ did for us on the cross: He was a lowly servant, for our benefit. And that’s what He’ll also do when He comes again: He will give eternal blessing to an unworthy people, to all who believe in him, to all who have longed for his return! According to his promise, that’s what we look for. So let us lead holy and godly lives, as we look for and as we hasten the coming of Christ’s great day!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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