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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:The Gracious Patience of the Lord
Text:2 Peter 3: 8-15; preaching text: 0 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2021-10-24
Added:2021-11-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The Gracious Patience of the Lord

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the passage we just read addresses the subject of time … the passage of time to be precise. Although we may not give it much thought, we human beings are creatures who are controlled by time. Our lives, our moments are measured in time. Most of our activities are scheduled by time.

 

Most of us get up at the same time every day. We start work at a certain time; we quit at a certain time; most of us probably eat supper around the same time each day; we probably go to bed around the same time every night. And then we get up the next day and do it all over again.

 

In a sense, time is our master. However, the passage we read a moment ago revealed to us that there is one Being who is not bound by time, or measured by time, or ruled by time. That Being is God. And, when we say that God is not bound by time, we are saying that God is infinite. God is eternal. God is timeless. God is not a creatures; He is the Creator -- without beginning or end.

 

And unlike us, God does not feel the passage of time. Consider this: we sit in a doctor’s office waiting to see the doctor, or we sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 2, or we sit in church listening to a sermon and sometimes the seconds and minutes drag on and 30 minutes can seem like 3 hours. Time creeps along so slowly we say.  

 

But on other occasions, we say that time flies – time seems to pass quickly. That is certainly the case when we’re on vacation, and it is also true as we grow older. We can literally feel or sense the passage of time as our bodies grow older and weaker and more tired with time.  

 

But as we said, God is not like us. God is not a creature who is bound by time or measured by time. As verse 8 says, with the Lord, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as a day. As we’re going to see in a moment, Peter writes this in response to those scoffers who were sarcastically ridiculing him saying: So where is this coming that Jesus promised? You told us that Jesus promised that He would come back, that He would return, so why is He taking so long?

If the scoffers were asking that question in Peter’s day, if they were that impatient back then, how much more shouldn’t WE be asking that question in our day!! But this is also why Peter’s response is so perfect for the scoffers in his day and for us today – as we too can be so impatient.

 

So we’re going to see that God has a perfect plan and perfect timing for everything he does. That is what Peter is saying here. Peter Reveals the Reason for the Lord’s Apparent Delay. 

1) The Lord’s Sense of Timing

2) The Lord’s Gracious of Patience

 

1) The Lord’s Sense of Timing

As I mentioned a moment ago, Peter is responding to the claims of the scoffers that Jesus is not coming back. Verse 4 is where we find their mocking words: where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything has gone on as it has since the beginning of creation.

 

For the Jews, that reference to our fathers is often thought to be a reference to the Old Testament Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That could certainly be the case here as well. When looking back to the Creation, to the beginning of time, it would certainly make sense that they would refer to their ancient fathers who lived thousands of years before them.

 

It’s kind of like saying – our great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers were waiting for the same promises to come true in their day – and here we are today. Still waiting. Why should we think that anything is going to change? Every day comes and goes like the one before it, and there is no end in sight. Why should we believe that anything will change?    

 

But that reference in verse 4 could also have to do with the promise Jesus made in Matthew 24. That is when Jesus was on the Mount of Olives with Peter and the other disciples. They were looking at the temple grounds, and Jesus prophesied that the temple would be destroyed; not one stone would be left standing on another. Many would be killed. Others would flee.

 

Jesus was talking about the fall and destruction of Jerusalem (which would take place in the year AD 70 when the Romans would come and destroy the city and desecrate the temple – so it had not yet happened at the time Peter wrote this letter to the church).

 

But along with the fall of Jerusalem (which would happen in the near future) Jesus also prophesied about the coming of the Son of Man (His second coming), which was something that would take place in the distant future. Jesus said that the Son of Man would come on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And then in verse 34 he said: I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  

 

In the span of the same speech – in one paragraph -- Jesus is talking about things that will happen in the next 30 years, right alongside things that could happen anytime in the next 3000 years.  

That is why Matthew 24 is difficult to understand. But for the people in Peter’s day, they could be thinking about what Jesus said in verse 34 (I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened) and they were saying: our fathers in this generation ARE passing away! And yet, there is no return. Still there is no Jesus. So why is there a delay? Where is this coming he promised?  

 

So Peter replies with these words: but do not forget one thing dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Peter is quoting from Psalm 90 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” Then here is comes in verse 4: A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

 

What is the Psalmist saying there? Moses is showing us the contrast between God’s timelessness, God’s eternity and man’s very brief, very momentary, very fleeting existence. God is eternal. He is from everlasting to everlasting; but man is mortal. Man is here today and gone tomorrow. We are creatures of dust and ashes. But God is from everlasting to everlasting. God is forever.

 

Then in verse 4 Moses illustrates this point, he wants to make this easier for his readers to understand. How timeless, how eternal is God when compared to us? What is God’s perception of time, compared to ours?

 

Yes, for the Psalmist, for you and me, a thousand years is pretty much the longest span of time we can imagine. Today we would exaggerate that and we would write a million years. But it means the very same thing. A thousand years, a million years is how long? It’s forever!

 

And that’s what Moses is saying: to God our forever is like a moment. It’s like yesterday. To God, time is of no consequence. A watch in the night was a 3 or 4 hour period – and to those who are sleeping at night, a night watch goes by in an instant. You fall sleep and you wake up in the morning and you are not even aware of the passage of time. That’s the way time is with God.

 

So, Peter says: don’t forget that. But the problem is, we do. We so easily forget that God is not like us. We easily forget that God’s time is not our time. We easily forget that before God made the foundations of the earth, before God ever said “Let there be light” God already knew all that was going to be. God knows the end even before the beginning.

 

And so, unlike us, God is not in a hurry. God is not impatient. God does not get frustrated or worried that somehow his plans are not going as well as He expected. That never happens with God because He is not only all wise and all knowing, but He is also all powerful and all seeing. God possesses the power to bring to pass all that he decrees.

 

There’s a verse in the book of Galatians which highlights the perfect wisdom and power and plan of God. It is Galatians 4:4-5 which says:  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

 

What time was Paul talking about there? He was talking about the time of Christ’s birth. When the time had fully come. When the time, the day, the age, the era when the Christ child was to be born. It was a time that was spoken about by the prophets. It was a day promised by God since Genesis 3:15 when Adam fell into sin in the Garden and God cursed the serpent and told him that one day the seed of the woman would come and he would crush the serpent’s head.

 

Do you know how many days there were between the moment of that promise and the day of its fulfillment? In years, it was over 4000. 4000 years is something like 1,460,00 days! That’s a lot of days. A lot of waiting, hoping, praying, trusting and suffering and dying and living by faith.

 

And that was just the day of Christ’s first coming. Today, it has been nearly 2000 years since Christ suffered and died and rose again  -- since the angels promised (in Acts 1:11 that Jesus would return in the same way that the disciples had watched him ascend). 2000 years is something like 730,000 days if you’re counting. 

 

And still to this day – this 24th day of October, in the year of our Lord 2021, Christ’s second coming is still at hand. We are still awaiting the return of the King, the fulfillment of that promise, that glorious and final Day of the Lord, the consummation of His everlasting Kingdom.  

 

But we wait as God’s people have been called to wait in every age: in faith. In obedience (which is exactly where Peter takes this – so what kind of people ought we to be? Vs. 11, A holy people; a holy and faithful bride who patiently awaits the appearance of the bridegroom).     

 

And so, the call to us is: Do not forget. Do not lose your perspective of things. Like the church in ages past: keep waiting, keep praying, keep hoping, keep trusting, keep living, keep following, and always remain faithful.  

 

2) The Lord’s Gracious of Patience

And the reason for that, the reason to remain hopeful and faithful ties in with Peter’s second point: The Lord’s Gracious patience. Here (in verse 9) is where Peter essentially applies in a very practical and pastoral way what he was saying in verse 8. He writes: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. And then that patience is referred to once more in verse 15: bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation!

 

In other words, what we perceive to be a delay, what we perceive to be the Lord being slow to return, or slow to keep or fulfill his promises and bring about the end of the world, it’s not slowness at all. It’s not God being slack, or unfaithful or even inconsiderate.

 

How can it be viewed that way? We are, by nature, a very impatient people. We are anxious. And when we are made to wait, we can become upset and even angry. And I believe this is the same way we can act toward God when it comes to our own anticipation of the end of the world.

 

We can get angry and upset at God because of what is happening in the world. We see all the pain, the injustice, the suffering, the persecution; we see the sin, the immorality, the brazen wickedness and godlessness of the nations -- the rise of a generation that hates God and hates the church and wants to wipe out Christianity – and we lift up our gaze to God and we say: haven’t you seen enough, God? Isn’t this what you said would happen in 2 Timothy 3 – the godlessness that would accompany the last days?

 

Lord, it’s been the last days for over 2000 years. So how long O Lord? How long are you going to allow these terrible things to happen? How many more generations must suffer the anguish and pain and persecution of the wicked? How many more must die?

 

We cry out like Isaiah the prophet in chapter 64: Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! Or we’re like James and John, the sons of thunder, who when they saw that the people in a certain village did not welcome Jesus, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

That’s us! That’s you and me. Let’s just end this now, Lord! Why wait! But here we are reminded to lift up our eyes and to look at this world from a Godly perspective – to see, to trust, and to know that God is at work here.

 

We must never think that time and history is simply rolling on (trudging on) without purpose, without direction, without a clear destination. That’s not Biblical thinking. That’s worldly thinking. Rather, what is really happening? What is God doing in this world? Do you know? How would you explain this to someone new to the faith? What is God doing right now?

 

God, through His Son Jesus Christ who sits at his right hand, by His Word and Holy Spirit, is busy working -- gathering His lost sheep. The gospel is going out. The Word of God is being preached to the nations. Souls are being saved!

 

In Matthew 24, that same passage I mentioned earlier, Jesus speaks of the signs of the times: wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places…Jesus also speaks of persecution -- you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. Apostasy: many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…

 

But then, amidst all that bad news of apostacy and false teachers and suffering and persecution, Jesus says this: And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

 

That’s what God is doing right now. Peter says, the Lord has not forgotten us. He is not distracted from his work or busy with other things. No. Rather, He is carrying out His work! The Lord’s will, the Lord’s plan, the Lord’s mission is to evangelize this fallen, wicked, sinful and depraved world. 

 

The Lord is patient, Peter says, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. That verse troubles many stanch Calvinists, but it shouldn’t. There is no tension, there is no disagreement between God’s expressed desire to save everyone, to desire the nations to repent, and God’s eternal decree to save only His elect. I think the best example of this is when Jesus lamented over Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

 

Jesus is not saying that he really wants to save them, but he cannot. All that Jesus is expressing there is the compassion and sorrow he feels in his own heart and soul over the hardheartedness and wickedness of those who refuse to believe. It shows the true nature of God – that God has a love and a benevolence toward humanity even though they do not deserve it; even though they are enemies of God, and objects of God’s wrath and even though they will be punished by God.

 

That’s the same truth in our passage. To say that God is not willing that any should perish is to say that God does not desire it or wish it. God does not take some strange or perverse delight in punishing the wicked, in sending the wicked to hell. Rather, that they would repent and be saved!

 

It’s the same as a parent: a parent has a sincere wish that his children should not be punished, and yet he may have a moral necessity to punish them. A judge may have a sincere desire that no man who should ever come before him and be found guilty or receive a sentence of execution. But then he does not contradict that wish or desire when he, with a very heavy heart, with tears in his eyes, must pronounce a death sentence upon someone who is guilty of breaking the law.

 

So it is with God. God has a gracious heart, a loving heart toward lost sinners. And every sinner should consider the fact that he or she is not immediately struck down in his sin -- not as a proof that God does not see their sin, or that God does not punish the wicked -- but as a demonstration of God’s gracious forbearance; that God is willing that he and all sinners should have an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life.

 

When we think of God’s patience, think of all those who, this very day, will be saved! Think of those God is adding to the kingdom. Our children. Our future children and grandchildren. Don’t forget that. And think of the work that God calls us to do. Remember, God enlists us, His church on earth, to carry out his work, his mission in this world. We are called to preach, to teach, to discipline, to do the work of missions, to plant churches, to evangelize, to spread the word.

 

There’s an expression Peter uses in verse 12 about speeding or hastening the day of the Lord. How can we possibly speed the day of the Lord’s coming? We cannot change the day or the hour when the Lord will return. But we speed his coming (as it were) by being faithful to do the work that Christ has given us to do.

 

Romans 10 comes to mind: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 

And so you see, all this goes hand in hand. The Lord’s patience means salvation – because it is one more day, one more moment for the Gospel to be preached, for the Gates of heaven to stand wide open, and for sinners like you and me to be saved. And if you do not yet know Jesus Christ as your Savior, don’t let this day pass by. Do not let one more hour pass by – because (as we will hear tonight) we do not know the day or the hour of his return. Today is the day God calls you to believe. Today God patiently calls you to repent and believe. You may not have tomorrow.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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