Faithlife Sermons

Anticiper

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →
This month we have been looking at what it means to be the family of God as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ. We saw what it is to belong to the family of God, to live as the family, to multiply as the family, and last week, we arrived at what it is to cherish Christ as the family—we arrived at the coming of Christ: his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection. So what is there left to do?
Well, it is fortuitous that there is one Sunday left in December—this gives us the opportunity to look forward, to anticipate what comes next. And as we anticipate what comes next in the story, my prayer is that this will set us up for the year to come. Because as we’ll see, living in anticipation of Christ’s return is what characterizes the Christian life today: it’s not just about love, or a healthy sense of what Jesus gives us today. It’s about what’s coming.

What’s Coming

:
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This is what’s coming—it is just a short glimpse into what awaits us. But it is a remarkably complete glimpse.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
A new heaven and a new earth—the renewal of all things. The eternal presence of God—God who dwells with his people as their God. Eternal life and eternal joy—no more crying, no more pain, no more death. Everything we hope for that actually matters finds its culmination in this picture—eternal happiness, eternal joy, eternal life.
This is what we have to look forward to. Jesus promised that one day he would return to renew the earth, to establish the new heavens and the new earth, and to bring all those who have faith in him to live with him there for all eternity.
I could go on about this for hours—you could do an entire series of sermons on this one passage alone. But today we want to ask ourselves one pressing question: what difference does it make? Really, why does it matter where we’re going if right now, we’re here? What does it matter if we know that one day we will be with Jesus in the New Heavens and the New Earth? Does it really actually change anything to know what my destination is?
The answer isn’t just that is changes something: it changes everything. We don’t have time today to get into the multitude of different reasons why this is true—all the things that change when we understand where we are going—so today I’d simply like to conclude this series with a handful of changes, which we see in .
What does it mean to anticipate Christ’s return as a body? It means:
a greater desire for evangelism.
a greater awareness of what is temporary
a greater desire for holiness
a greater thirst for heaven.
:
:
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

A Greater Drive for Evangelism

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
There’s an old expression in the Southern U.S. when someone is doing something too slowly: “Man, you’re slower than the second coming of Christ!”
It does feel this way, right? Jesus promised that he would come again—the next-to-last verse of the Bible has Jesus saying, “Surely I am coming soon” (). Soon? It doesn’t feel like that. It feels like he’s taking his sweet time—John wrote his Revelation, at the latest, at the end of the first century A.D. So it’s been more or less 1,900 years since Jesus said that: I am coming soon.
This is why Peter takes the time to tell us that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. I’m going to digress for a moment, because I know what some of you are thinking. I know some people use this verse to suggest that because God created time, he is “outside of time” somehow, that he is simultaneously in the past and in the present—and they use this to defend or refute all kinds of ideas, including (but not limited to) refuting the doctrine of election. Now, it could be: that might be true. But it’s pure speculation—there’s nothing in the Bible that affirms that God is “outside of time.” What Peter says here is that with the Lord one day is AS a thousand years, and a thousand years AS one day.
Let me put it this way: if you go on a vacation with your kids, and you get in the car, and you have five hours to drive. A five-hour drive is easy—an afternoon. But if you’ve got young kids, you know that to them, it feels really long. Why does it feel long for them, and not so long for us? Because we’re adults, and we’re used to waiting.
God is eternal. If you’ve lived eternally, how long do you think a few thousand years is going to feel for you? Not so long.
Here’s Peter’s point. He knows that Jesus’s return won’t feel like it’s coming “soon.” It will feel long to us, because we’re human. But all that time—these nearly two thousand years so far—seen in the perspective of eternity, is the blink of an eye.
As Peter says, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you. He’s not slow, but he is patient. He could have come back whenever he wanted. But he’s waiting. The question is, why is he waiting? V. 9 again:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God is waiting because he is making more time for repentance. He is waiting so that more may not perish.
People have this idea that the God of the Bible is harsh and unfair, ready to pounce on the smallest sin and punish the slightest indiscretion. It is true that God is a holy God, and does not—can not—excuse sin or act as if rebellion against his glory is not worthy of the greatest punishment. But harsh? Unfair? Absolutely not. Already God sent Jesus to live our life and to die our death, in our place, in order that we might live. And if that were not enough, he shows us patience we can’t even begin to fathom—a patience that has already waited thousands of years, and which will wait only he knows how many more—in order that more may come to Christ, and know him, and love him, and be saved.
So then the question is, if God is waiting to send Christ back in order that more might be saved, and if we know that, what should that knowledge produce in us? The desire that motivates God’s patience should be our desire as well. If we know that God is waiting to fulfill his promise in order that more may be saved, then we will feel the drive to accomplish our mission all the more acutely.
Christ gave us a mission:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
He has given us a mission, and he has given us time to accomplish it. Living in anticipation of Christ’s return, as a body, means firstly a greater drive to fulfill that mission—to spread the gospel, to speak of Jesus to others, to pray for the salvation of our friends and neighbors and loved ones, to see more and more people come to know Christ and love him and be like him. This is the first thing.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

A Greater Awareness of What Is Temporary

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
When Peter talks about the heavenly bodies being “burned up and dissolved,” and the earth and the works that are done on it “being exposed,” he’s not saying the earth will be totally destroyed. Rather, he means to say that much of what happens on this earth is only temporary. Not everything—we see that when Jesus was resurrected, he was raised in a physical body which was changed but still noticeably Jesus, and that he was raised in this body; and speaks of the earth waiting for the day it will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. So some things will remain. But much of what happens on this earth will be burned up—will pass away—will give way to something entirely new and entirely pure.
the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Living in anticipation of Christ’s return as a body will mean that as a body, we become more and more aware of the temporary nature of much of what happens to us, and that we will adjust our priorities, our loves and our aspirations accordingly.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Let me give you some examples. I know that some of you were probably upset at my insistence these last few weeks on being present when the church gathers—some of you probably thought I was being a bit too extreme. But I’ll quote Nathan Rose again:
What we spend our time on shows what we truly value. If you miss church in order to sleep in or to attend a sporting activity, what does this say about the worth you ascribe to God? Replacing your church’s regularly scheduled worship time with some other activity demonstrates that God is not actually worthy of our worship; something else is… God created us to worship him. That’s the primary reason you exist. This is why the church was redeemed and this is what God’s people will do when Jesus returns and restores our fallen world.
Or, if you don’t want to take his word for it, look at what we see in , which gives us a picture of the final state of things after Christ returns and renews the earth and establishes his kingdom here:
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
Worshiping God together is one of the main things we do as a body, and it will be one of the main things we do throughout all eternity. If we know that one of the main things we do today is not temporary, but eternal, will we not see that there must be immense value to it? If we know that we will be doing this thing which God considers beautiful enough and important enough to preserve for all eternity, will we not want to invest ourselves as much as possible in it today?
want to invest ours
Or think of the things we like to do in our free time—whether it’s entertainment or sports or board games… Some of those things will probably still be around in the new heavens and the new earth. Entertainment, almost definitely—although it will probably take different forms. Sports…probably? Why not?
But even if they are present, they will not be the central focus of life on the new creation. The central focus of life on the new creation will be the glory of God, the beauty of God, the perfection of God; everything else that happens will be a means to help us enjoy God’s glory more fully.
So when we think about the things we spend our time on, the things that are important for us, I think we can safely say that most of us give ourselves over to a lot of things that don’t really matter—not ultimately, not in the end. That doesn’t mean there should be no place for them, but that they should be in their proper place. They should be means by which we’re enabled to see Christ more clearly and love him more fully. And if they are ever getting in the way of our seeing and loving Christ, then it should be an easy choice to simply cut them out, because they’re temporary.
Or say someone in the church gets sick. Say someone has cancer. Early in the church, when there were only fifteen or twenty of us, there was a man named Nor who was homeless. Not many people knew he was homeless; he wanted to simply be a brother in Christ and so didn’t want to draw attention to his living situation. In addition to his homelessness, a few months after he joined the church he found out he had very advanced stomach cancer. There was nothing to be done. He underwent treatment for it, but died fairly quickly after his diagnosis.
When we were planting a church filled with young people in an area which is filled with young people, I thought that the first “big event” we’d have as a church would be a wedding, or the birth of a baby. I never thought it would be a funeral. But that’s what happened. I and many other people in the church who knew Nor at the time (you know who you are, you’ll remember) had a lot of conversations with him toward the end about his life, and about his situation. And his only comfort at the end was the knowledge that his present suffering—his poverty, his cancer—was temporary. His only comfort was knowing that all of these things which worried him enormously during his life weren’t going to last.
It wasn’t just his only comfort; it was a good comfort. It was a full comfort.
Living in anticipation of Christ’s return will produce in us a greater awareness of what it temporary, and it will show us what is worth spending our time on, investing ourselves in, as a body.
But this is not all it produces in us. Peter gives one very specific example of something which should change in us due to the temporary nature of our lives in this world. It should produce in us a greater desire for holiness.

A Greater Desire for Holiness

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
John Piper said about verse 11 that its implication is this: “the only things that are going to survive the fires of judgment on this earth are the expressions of holiness and godliness.”
The implication of verse 11 is this: the only things that are going to survive the fires of judgment on this earth are the expressions of holiness and godliness. I saw that old, black plaque with the silver chain and white writing almost every day while I was growing up. It hung in our stairway in Greenville. Now it hangs in our kitchen for our sons to see. It says, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
It would be a mistake to miss the sense of urgency Peter expresses here. The day of the Lord is coming; Christ is returning; and everything we know will be radically changed at his coming. So how do we hope he finds us on that day? What sort of people ought we to be in lives of holiness and godliness?
You see, Peter is encouraging us to trade in things that are temporary for something that is permanent: Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness
The majority of the things people do in this life are not done in the context of holiness; they are not done for the glory of God. Now, they can be—anything can be. You can enjoy a cup of coffee, or an evening with your family, or write a book, or have a conversation, for the glory of God. We do this by being aware of the good things we have as a gift and thanking him and worshiping him for them; by praying that he would use this conversation or this evening with our family to help us love Christ more deeply; by seeking to edify and exhort to holiness our brothers and sisters through the writing of this book.
But the truth is that most of the time, most Christians don’t think to go about their business in this way, and unbelievers never do it. They may reflect the image of God without being aware they’re doing it, but they never willingly do anything for God’s glory.
If we do this in such an ordinary context as a family visit, how much more, if we know that the day of the Lord is coming, will we wish to live in the way he has told us to? How much more will we want him to find us working with all our might to become the people he has called us to be?
Here’s Peter’s point: the things of this earth—the sky, the land and the works that are done on them—will be dissolved and renewed at Christ’s coming, like a bit of silver ore that’s melted down to make pure, refined silver. And the only things that will last—the only things that will still be around afterwards—are works of holiness and godliness.
But there’s even more to it than that—Peter says that in living lives of holiness and godliness, we are waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. This is a confusing idea—for doesn’t God already know when he is coming back? Hasn’t he already set the time and date?
John Piper said about verse 11 that its implication is this: “the only things that are going to survive the fires of judgment on this earth are the expressions of holiness and godliness.”
And the answer is yes—Jesus said in that the Father knows exactly when Christ will return. But we also know that when God set that day, he decided that it would be after his people had accomplished all of his purposes for them. Now, we don’t know what all of those purposes are, but we know how he has called us to bring them about: by living in obedience to his commands and by making disciples of all nations. And so as we live in obedience, as we share the gospel with others, we are in a sense “hastening” his coming. We are bringing ourselves closer to that day by being a part of the plan.
So the church that knows this, that lives in anticipation of Christ’s return, will manifest a greater desire for holiness. And if you think about it, all of us want this, even if we don’t realize it. What has driven the entire human race throughout the course of history has been the desire to build something that will last. We want to do this as societies, and we want to do this as individuals. We want to build something that won’t be just “here today, gone tomorrow.”
Peter tells us how. If we want to build something that will last, then we will build our lives—as individuals and as the body of Christ—on holiness and godliness. If we truly anticipate Christ’s return as a body, then we will encourage and exhort one another to follow hard after Christ. We will watch one another carefully—not in order to judge one another, but so that we might come quickly alongside each other to help one another grow in holiness.
People in that church will encourage and exhort one another to follow hard after Christ. We will watch one another carefully—not in order to judge one another, but so that we might come quickly alongside each other to help one another grow in holiness.
We will recognize what is temporary, and what is permanent, and we will exhort one another to always go in that direction. As the old poem said, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.”
So this anticipation of Christ’s return will produce in us a greater drive for evangelism, a greater awareness of what is temporary, a greater desire for holiness, and—lastly—a greater thirst for heaven.
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

A Greater Thirst for Heaven

13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
The idea that the world and its works will be burned up and renewed—that much of what we do is at best temporary—seems like a big let-down; it seems like if this is true, then when Christ comes back we’ll lose everything. And that’s why Peter ends here—because while yes, certain things will be lost, we must always look to what we will gain.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 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.
:
And what we will gain is the fulfillment of God’s promise: new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. The reason why it’s not bad news that certain things will be lost is because if we lose it, it wasn’t worth keeping to begin with. The only thing that will ultimately satisfy us—that will truly complete us—is knowing and loving and being like Christ. And that is what we gain at the end of all this.
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But how many of us really think this way? How often do we actually think about heaven? Not that often. Because the idea of heaven seems vague and fuzzy to us—we think of Tom and Jerry sitting on clouds playing harps for all eternity. (Which would in my opinion, be more like hell.) No wonder people feel like Christianity isn’t worth buying into, if at the end of it all, the whole point is that we have to wear white robes and sit around just generally contemplating things—for all time!
But the truth is many Christians still think this way too. They know they don’t want to go to hell, but they’re not all that excited about heaven…or at least not nearly as excited about heaven as they are about whatever life they’re trying to build for themselves here.
And that is a big problem.
Now I’m going to diverge from 2 Peter for just a minute here to try and show why the Bible would encourage us to think hard about these things—both by example and by direct admonition.
The best example we have of the Bible showing us how to think about heaven comes in the form of the book of Revelation. This is where you’ll find the most amount of information about Christ’s coming, and the new heavens and the new earth, in the Bible. (Not the only place, but it’s the most comprehensive.) The thing is, nearly everything it says about these things is confusing. Revelation is filled with symbols and imagery and expressions that are foreign to us and are never completely explained, which is why it is the book around which Christians agree the least.
Now, I do believe the symbols in Revelation mean specific things—it is not incomprehensible. But last year I was sitting with a group of students at Crosslands seminary, in a round-table discussion with Tim Chester, one of our teachers. Tim had just given a talk on the last half of the book of Revelation, and it was fascinating. So everyone going on and on asking questions about what this meant or what that meant. And at one point Tim took a step back and said something I found so obvious, it was amazing I hadn’t thought of it before.
He said that while Revelation isn’t a closed book—in that it can be understood—we need to consider that one of the goals of the book of Revelation may not be merely to communicate symbols to us, but to fire up our imaginations. There is some profoundly vivid imagery in that book, in the good and the bad, and if you stop trying to decipher it but simply read it as a story, it’s a fascinating story. It reads like an old fantasy novel, filled with dragons and beasts and seas which devour people, as well as streets paved with gold and gates encrusted with jewels…
My favorite image, though comes from the very end of the book, in .
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
So you’ve got this beautiful city, which is where God’s throne sits, and in the middle of this garden is a river, and the river runs through the streets of the great city, and the river branches off (like the Seine and l’île de la Cité) and in the middle of the river is a tree. And the leaves of the tree actually bring healing to the entire world.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Do you think that image is there merely to give us doctrinal information? to bolster our eschatology? Of course not—it’s there to produce longing in us! It’s there to give us a picture to anchor our minds to, to help us imagine how good this will be!
By using language and images which fire our imaginations, the Bible shows us consistently that we should dwell regularly on heaven.
And it doesn’t just lead by example—the Bible, on multiple occasions, flat-out tells us to think about heaven.
Just think of how many times the writers of the Bible call us to fix our eyes and our thought on the “hope that is laid up for us in heaven.” There are dozens of examples in the Bible, but I’ll just give you one.
:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ...
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
In other words, waiting for our blessed hope, the return of Jesus Christ, and all his return will bring with it, is what enables us to live godly lives today. Those who think much about heaven become godly and effective for the gospel on earth.
Richard Baxter was a Puritan minister in the 17th century who when he was a young man came down with a serious illness one winter. He was sure he was going to die, and so he wrote that as he lay on what he thought was his deathbed, “I began to contemplate more seriously on the everlasting rest which I apprehended myself to be just on the borders of.” In the end he didn’t die, but thinking about heaven a great deal during his illness was so helpful to him that he continued doing so until he died—he would take a walk before dinner every evening, and for a half-hour or so would do nothing but try to think about heaven as much and as clearly as possible. And the result was one of the most profoundly helpful ministries in history.
we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Brothers and sisters, we are commanded to do this—we are commanded to set our hope on what is to come, and not merely what is right in front of us. What is in front of us is temporary; it is fleeting. We will spend—if we’re lucky—a century or so on this fallen earth…and then an infinitude of millenia on the new heavens and the new earth. How ridiculous and short-sighted of us to spend all of our time thinking about the tiny century we have on this fallen earth now!
In other words, it is a norm of the Christian life to wait eagerly for the day when our bodies will be renewed and redeemed, to be made like Christ.
The Christian who is anticipating Christ’s return, the church which anticipates Christ’s return, will find their thirst for heaven growing exponentially over the years. Because that is why we’re doing all of this; that is what God gives us as motivation to follow hard after him. Heaven is the glorious world, the glorious future that awaits us, and the reason it is so glorious is because in heaven we will be always and completely in the presence of God.
Let us help each other anticipate the day of Christ’s return. Let’s help each other do this, to see produced in one another a greater desire for evangelism, a greater awareness of what is temporary, a greater desire for holiness, and a greater thirst for heaven.
a greater desire for evangelism.
a greater awareness of what is temporary
a greater desire for holiness
a greater thirst for heaven.
Related Media
Related Sermons