Monday, December 05, 2011

Sermon on 2 Peter 3:8-14, for the Second Sunday in Advent, "Eagerly Waiting"

Sermon outline:

1. “The hardest part is the waiting.” Young children—5 minutes or 1 hour can both seem an eternity. Waiting for the birth of a child. Waiting while a loved one is undergoing surgery. Waiting with someone who is dying. Time stretches and lags. Or it can fly by if we are enjoying ourselves. Contrast the “eternity” of waiting to the “joy” of arrival. Of a healthy birth, of a return from successful operation, or arriving at the gates of heaven after your death—the joy makes all the waiting worth it. Can even fill the waiting itself with joy.

2. The Lord Jesus clearly promises He will return, but at an unknown time. Unexpectedly like a thief in the night. Waiting. Time seems to drag. When will the promise be fulfilled? Is God slow to keep His promise? God does not perceive time as us. Time does not pass more slowly or quickly for Him. He is just as close to the first man Adam, as to the last person to be born in time. Outside of time. We experience it in sequence. Like looking lengthwise at a tall tree lying on the ground. Can only see one end. Time is an order of events from the bottom of the log, step by step, all the way to the other end. But God can view time as from the side, seeing the whole “log” of time, with all events before Him. All things are together (Luther). Day like a thousand years and vice versa.

3. Learn patience from this—God is not slow, but reason He appears to delay (our perspective, not His), is to give opportunities for all to repent. For us waiting is an eternity. For God it is gracious patience. God’s nature—not to destroy—which He could do to all if He judged immediately—but to make the way for salvation open to all. This remarkable patience and mercy of God is so contrary to the way people often come to think of Him, as a harsh and demanding judge, who is eager to destroy the wicked. In reality, God delays and is patient to all so that they can have opportunity to repent. to be saved, to come to a knowledge of the truth. God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but rather that they would turn from their way and live. Ezekiel 18:23

4. What about the suddenness of His coming, and the completeness of destruction? Seems drastic. Kind of attached to this world. Seems incredible that the whole universe could just dissolve in fire and cease to exist. But even scientists now admit this fact, that the universe and the matter that makes it up, is not eternal, won’t last forever. Difference—the end will come much sooner and more suddenly than they think. Break our attachment to worldly things. “Diamonds are forever.” Not really. All that seems so durable and long-lasting will disintegrate. But why? New heavens and new earth. This groaning old creation is bound under the decay and effects of sin. Replaced with a new, better heavens and earth, according to God’s perfect plan. Free of sin, decay, death, suffering. Get attached to God, His Word, to things eternal. To God’s Word which will survive this great and total destruction of the universe, and preserve His people. Waiting will be rewarded with glorious heaven.

5. How to prepare for a disaster? Food, water, emergency light? Different for this final disaster. But we need light—Jesus is the Light of the World—a light never to be extinguished, unlike the failing lights of this universe, that will one day grow dim and flicker out. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”

6. Live lives of holiness and godliness. Always repenting, turning away from sin, back to God. What is holiness? Set apart for God. Characteristic first and foremost of God. Only by God sharing His holiness with us, do we also become holy. By our baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are made holy. Joined to His forgiveness, set apart (holy) for His purposes. Breaking our attachment with the world, means also breaking our attachment with its values and ways. Holiness is not simply a matter of the mind—thinking the right thoughts, having faith in God. But also especially a matter of the body. How we use our body. Can glorify God with it, or dishonor it by impurity.

7. Body is holy because it’s a temple of the Holy Spirit. Body is to be used for honoring God. Things we do with our body affect our holiness. Can make us unclean or impure. Call to holiness is to use your body well, in self-control, in purity. 1 Thess. 4:3 says: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” In several places holiness is directly connected with avoiding sexual sin. Keeping sexuality in the bounds of our own marriage, as God intended it. Not before it; not outside of it, but with our spouse. Holiness also has to do with frequent prayer, with avoiding unnecessary arguing and quarrelling, being in control of our bodies and tempers. Holiness has to do with modesty of how we dress and adorn our bodies—particularly women. Not to flaunt sexuality, but to show feminine grace and beauty through modesty, and through good works and love—which give a deep inner beauty that is more than skin. Study verses in talking points.

8. This kind of holiness and godliness is contrasted to the troubles faced in the last days, as ungodliness increases: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Godliness seeks to avoid the pleasure-seeking, the arrogance and pride, the dissatisfaction, disobedience, and other characteristics of unholy living. These things are all rooted in our sinful nature, and it takes very little for them to be inflamed into full-grown ugly sins that are destructive of ourselves and toward others.

9. So what if your description is found in the above? What if you used your body for impurity and not holiness? What if you succumbed to the base desires of your sinful nature, and those descriptions fit you? Repent, turn back to the Lord. The time of His coming is unknown, so don’t delay. This is what you once were—but God has and is redeeming you—buying you back from those sins, so that you may be set apart (holy) for Him. Jesus Christ presents you spotless and blameless, because He gave His live to forgive and erase those sins, and to bring you to something new and better.

10. All the waiting will be fulfilled. New heavens and new earth is the fulfillment and reward of all that we’ve been waiting for by faith in Jesus Christ. “where righteousness dwells.” Injustice, evil, sin, suffering, decay will be gone. Creation fully restored and made right. Home of everlasting righteousness and peace. God secured it. He makes it ours by faith in Christ. Preserve us Oh Lord—preserve us in patient waiting, preserve us in clinging to heavenly things, not worldly things; preserve us in holiness and godliness of life, to use our minds and bodies for your glory. Preserve us for the day of that great reward, so that we receive your coming without fear, but with joyful, eager expectation—with shouts of thanksgiving and praise as we witness your whole plan unfold to perfection in the new heavens and new earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

11. Sermon Talking Points

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  1. Since God is outside time, what does that mean for the charge of scoffers, who mock that God is slow, or delaying, or just doesn’t exist? What is God’s reason for “delaying” (from our perspective) in His return? 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; cf. Ps. 90:4

  1. What does the suddenness of Jesus’ return mean for those who would try to predict a date for His return or the end of the world? Matt. 24:36; 1 Thess. 5:2; What will happen to the universe (heavens and earth) on the day of the Lord? 2 Pet. 3:12; Rev. 6:14; Matt. 24:35; Heb. 1:10-12

  1. How are we to be prepared and ready for this day of Jesus’ coming? Matt. 24:44; 25:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

  1. Holiness means to be “set apart for God.” Holiness is not only a matter of our mind, but also of our body, and how we use it to glorify God. In what way is our body a “holy temple?” 1 Cor. 6:19 What does this mean for how we use our bodies in holiness? 1 Cor. 6:15-20; Eph. 4:17-32; 1 Thess. 4:3-12; 1 Tim. 2:8-10

  1. What will the “new heavens and new earth” be like? Isaiah 65:17-25; Rev. 21-22. What does Peter mean in v. 13 by saying that it is where “righteousness dwells?” How does the hope of heaven lift you up in times of darkness or discouragement? How does it encourage you to strive to follow after Christ in holiness and godliness?

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