************ Sermon on 2 Peter 3:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 9, 2003
2 Peter 3:1-13
"How You Can Speed Up the Day of God"
Topic: Second Coming of ChristThere are similar "rumblings" in our world: warfare, earthquakes, the nuclear threat, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming day of Judgment (Matt. 24). People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings. But will we listen?
Subtopic: Warnings Concerning
Title: Signs of the Times
The May 1984 National Geographic showed through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden, the residents were killed while in their routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gasses. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day.
The saddest part is that these people did not have to die. Scientists confirm what ancient Roman writers record--weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. Even an ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had been able to read and respond to Vesuvius's warning!
-- Michael Bogart, Lemoore, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 4.
All the signs point to an imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ, but will we pay attention?
Topic: Second Coming of ChristJesus told us His return was imminent. Certainly all the signs tell us He will return soon. But will we listen?
A tourist driving through West Texas stopped at a gas station and observed a piece of rope dangling from a sign labeled "Weather Forecaster." "How can you possibly tell the weather with a piece of rope?" the tourist wanted to know. "It's simple, sonny," was the droll answer. "When the rope swings back and forth, it's windy, when it gets wet, it's raining, when it's frozen stiff, it's snowing, and when it's gone... tornado!"
Peter wrote to people who had doubts about the day of the Lord. They scoffed and said,
(2Pt 3:4) "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."We might think the same thing. For centuries people have been saying the second coming is imminent. For centuries people have been waiting. And yet nothing happens. Everything goes on as it always has. How come the Lord has not yet returned?
Part of the problem may be us. Part of the problem may be that we slow down rather than speed up the coming of the day of God. You hear me right: we may slow down rather than speed up the coming of the day of God.
Did you catch what Peter says in our text? Peter asks, "what kind of people ought you to be ... as you look forward to the day of God AND SPEED ITS COMING?" According to Peter we can actually speed the coming of the day of God.
This morning I want to look at that with you as I ask the question, "What can we do to speed the coming of the day of God?"
I Divine Providence and Human Responsibility
A But before we look at how you and I can make a difference, we need to look at the interaction of divine providence and human responsibility.
On the face of it, you would say it is simply impossible for us, as humans, to have any impact on the timing of the day of the Lord. Isn't it God Who has determined this ahead of time?
(Dan 2:21) He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
(Acts 1:7) He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
(1Th 5:1-2) Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, (2) for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
In a universe controlled by the providence of God so that nothing happens by chance and all things come to us from His fatherly hand, you would think that us humans could make no difference to the time and date of the second coming.
Yet, wonderful as it may seem, we do make a difference. The timing of Christ's second coming is to some extent dependent upon us as a church and as individuals. That's what our text says to us.
We can speed or hasten the coming of the day of the Lord. What a wonderfully positive conception of the significance of our time on earth. Our time here on earth is not barren; nor is it a time of useless activity or inactivity. Our time here on earth is intended to be a time of active cooperation with God to bring about the day of the Lord. God has a purpose for us on this earth and a future for us in heaven.
B We see here one of the great mysteries of the Bible: the interaction of divine providence and human responsibility. Think of them as two ends of one rope. The rope goes from the floor to the ceiling, over a pulley, and down to the floor again. To pull yourself to the top, you need to grab both ropes. If you grab only one and not the other, you go down.
I read the many teachings of the Bible regarding God's election, predestination, His chosen, providence, and so on. I read also the many teachings urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings. These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human mind. With childlike faith, I can only cling to both ropes, fully confidant that in eternity I will see more clearly than I do now. I can only take God at His Word and believe that though He has set times and dates I can still make a difference as to when the Lord Jesus will return.
II What We Can Do to Speed Its Coming
A So, back to our question: "What can we do to speed the coming of the day of God?"
We need to start off with missions, evangelism, witnessing, and inviting people to our worship services. Every time we are used of the Lord to present the Gospel to a lost soul, we hasten the coming of the Lord. Every time we let our light shine, we hasten the coming of the Lord. I say this, because in talking about the signs of the times and the end of the age Jesus says "the gospel must first be preached to all nations" (Mk 13:10; cf Mt 24:14).
Keep in mind, too, what Peter writes in our Scripture reading. The scoffers were complaining about the delay of the day of the Lord. Peter's response:
(2Pt 3:9) 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.
The Lord does not want anyone to perish. You need to realize there are also other things He does not want. He does not want:
- fishing without catching (Lk 5:4-11)
- an empty banquet table (Lk 14:15-23)
- sowing without reaping (Mt. 13:3-9)
- a fig tree that bears no figs (Lk 13:6-9)
- lost sheep that are not brought into the fold (Mt 18:11-14)
- a lost coin that is sought but not found (Lk 15:8-10)
- a ripe harvest that is not reaped (Mt 9:36-38)
- proclamation without response (Mt 10:14)
Do you see the common refrain that runs through every one of these? God does not want to lose a single soul. The Lord wants the lost to be saved. The Lord does not want anyone to die without knowing how much He loved them in Christ.
Why is the second coming delayed? The Lord is being patient. The Lord wants to give every lost soul an opportunity to repent and believe. This means the time of the second coming is advanced every time a lost soul is brought to the Lord and, by grace, repents of sin and believes in Jesus. The time of the second coming is advanced every time children are presented for baptism and parents lead them and teach them in the way of Christ. The time of the second coming is advanced every time someone stands before God and His people and in a public profession of faith claims Christ as Lord and Savior. The time of the second coming is advanced every time we let our light shine.
I can never think of evangelism without thinking of what Paul writes to Timothy:
(2Tim 2:2) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.This is a mathematical formula for spreading the gospel and enlarging the church. Paul taught Timothy. Timothy shared what he knew with reliable men. These faithful men, in turn, then taught others. And so the process goes on and on. If every believer followed this pattern, the church would reach the entire world with the gospel in one generation and the Lord could then return!
I think you realize the church today does not follow this pattern. At the recent meeting of Classis we were given a harvest chart. The chart listed all of the area Christian Reformed churches and the number of people each church received through evangelism the last three years. That number was divided by the number of members. During the last three years we had a ratio of 1 convert for every 86 members. Some churches had ratios over 1:500 and other churches had ratios less than 1:20. What do you think: are we speeding up or slowing down the time of Christ's return?
Do you want the Lord to return? Are you anxious for Him to come and to come quickly? Do you, as Peter puts it, "look forward to the day of God"? Then, you must use this time of the Lord's patience to proclaim the gospel. Then, you must use this time of the Lord's patience to let your light shine. That's the way to speed the time of His return.
B "What can we do to speed the coming of the day of God?" In teaching us how to pray Jesus says, "Your kingdom come." We are taught to pray here for the completion and perfection of God's kingdom when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. We are taught to pray here for the time when God is all in all, the devil's work is destroyed, the church is strong, and individual believers submit totally to God's rule (Phil 2:11; cf Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 123).
Too often as we go through life we make our little plans and ask God to support them: God, give me an A on my test or exam, help me expand my dairy, give me better prices for hay or oranges or milk, lead my son to a successful career ... Instead, we should be asking: Lord, how can I be part of your plan to glorify Your name and fully establish Your rule so that You are all in all?
When we pray for the kingdom rule of God in Christ we are speeding the coming of the day of the Lord. Because God always hears and listens to the prayers of His children for the sake of Christ.
The early church had a short one word prayer: "Maranatha" (1 Cor 16:22). Which means, "Come, O Lord." Of course they prayed that; they wanted Him to return.
Do you "look forward to the day of God"? Then you pray for the coming of the kingdom in all its fullness. Then you pray, "Maranatha."
C In our Scripture reading Peter says, "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming" (vs 11-12). Holy and godly living speeds the return of the Lord.
The Jewish Rabbis have two sayings that are relevant here. First, they say, "It is the sins of the people which prevent the coming of the Messiah. If Jews would genuinely repent for one day, the Messiah would come." Second, they say, "If Israel would perfectly keep the Torah for one day, the Messiah would come."
Holiness and godliness, obedience and love – in some wonderfully marvelous way the Lord God uses them to speed up the coming of the day of God. Every time, then, that we are being a Good Samaritan, we hasten the coming of the day. Every time we say "No" to sin and evil and flee from temptation, we hasten the coming of the day. Every time we put on the armor of God and stand against the devil's schemes, we hasten the coming of the day. Every time we separate ourselves from the works of darkness and live as children of light, we hasten the coming of the day. Every time we live as one of God's children instead of conforming to the ways of the world, we hasten the coming of the day. When we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we hasten the coming of the day.
(2Pt 3:11-12) ... what kind of people ought you to be ... (12) as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.Incredible as it may seem, we can speed the coming of the day of God.
Unfortunately, this also means the opposite – that we can delay the day of the Lord. If you don't tell others about Jesus, if you don't support our missionaries, if you – by grace – don't lead your children and grandchildren to faith in Christ Jesus, if you don't challenge the young people in your family to publicly profess their faith in the Lord, if you don't let your light shine, then you delay His return. If you don't pray, "Your kingdom come," or if you pray it without meaning it, or if you yourself do not submit more and more to God's rule, then you delay His return. And, if you don't lead a holy and godly life, if you embrace temptation rather than flee from temptation, if you put off rather than put on the armor of God, if you chase after sin instead of from sin, if you choose darkness over light, then you delay His return.
On the other hand, if you participate in the church's mission to the lost, if you pray for the coming of the kingdom, and if you live a holy and godly life, then you speed His coming.
As children of God – and this should go without saying – our heart's desire is for the Lord to return and to return quickly. We "look forward to the day of God." After all, it is only when He returns that we – with all of creation – have finally fulfilled what we have been created for: to live fully for God and His glory. Therefore, we should do all that we can to speed His return.
Too often, it seems that God's people are not all that anxious for the Lord to return. To often, it seems that God's people hinder rather than speed His coming.
So I need to ask: do we do what we can to speed the coming of the day? Do we want the Lord to come and to come quickly? Or, do we delay the Lord's return?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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