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2 Peter 3:8-15 - Patience in the Waiting

Advent 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:05
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When we look at the world through our Father's eyes, we have patience to wait for Christ's return

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Introduction

So as of this morning, Christmas is nineteen days away. Now, the way you react to that news is probably directly proportional to how old you are, right? I think the younger you are, the more you hear “nineteen days” and say something like, “That’s forever! WHEN is Christmas going to get here??” But the older you get, you tend to have a more, shall we say, patient attitude towards the arrival of Christmas morning, don’t you? In fact, you probably wouldn’t mind it if you heard the news that Christmas was going to be postponed for two weeks—because it would give you some extra time to get everything done that you need to do before Christmas morning gets here!
If you have kids in your life, you probably have had moments where their excitement over Christmas spills over into impatience—and part of you wishes that they could just see what you see. There’s a lot to do between now and Christmas morning, but that’s okay, because it will be worth the wait.
You and I are waiting this morning—not just for the celebration of the First Advent of Christ at Christmas. We are also waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, and just like kids waiting for Christmas, we can’t wait! As it says in our text this morning,
2 Peter 3:13 ESV
13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
And just like kids looking at the calendar and feeling like Christmas will never get here, it feels like Jesus’ return can’t get here soon enough! We just want Him to come back and set this world right—we want that new creation, that new heavens and new earth inhabited by His righteousness instead of the hatred and violence and greed and lust and perversions of this world!
And it is a good thing to deeply desire these things—as we will see, we are to hasten that Day. But how do we wait in the meantime? How do we have the patience to wait for a Day that feels like it will never come?
What I want us to see this morning from this passage is that, like kid impatiently waiting for Christmas morning to come,
When we look at the world through our FATHER’S eyes, we have PATIENCE to wait for Christ’s return.
Our text this morning comes towards the end of the second letter Peter wrote to encourage his readers in the midst of the persecutions and trials they were beginning to experience:
1 Peter 4:12–13 ESV
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Here in our text this morning Peter is addressing the ridicule that the church was suffering over their belief in Jesus’ return—earlier in the chapter he was answering the outsiders who were scoffing at them, saying “Where is the promise of His coming”? (v. 4) “You crackpot Christians, telling us that your Jesus is coming back to judge the world—what a bunch of losers! So, where is He, huh?” (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)
And so in verses 8-9, Peter reminds his readers that God is not slow, He is patient:
2 Peter 3:8–9 ESV
8 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. 9 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.
And this leads us to the first way that looking at this world through our Father’s eyes gives us patience to wait for Christ’s return:

I. God’s patience means SALVATION for His people (2 Peter 3:8-10)

Why does it seem like God is “slow” to fulfill His promise to bring about the Second Coming of Christ? Because there are still people out there who need to get saved! He is patient because He is not willing to leave any of His people behind! He is waiting for all of His people to come to be saved
From the PENALTY of their SIN (Romans 2:4)
Peter refers to this again at the end of our passage, where he writes
2 Peter 3:15 ESV
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,
He’s probably referring to Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he says
Romans 2:4 ESV
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
If you wake up tomorrow and Christ has not yet returned, it’s because there are still people out there who God is bringing to salvation! Like a father patiently holding the elevator door until all his children have come in, God’s patience means that not one of the people He has chosen to save will be left behind!
God’s patience means salvation for His people from the penalty of their sin, and His patience means salvation
From the POWER of this AGE (cp. Galatians 4:3)
The next verse in our passage has been subjected to a great deal of scrutiny over the years:
2 Peter 3:10 ESV
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.
The English Standard version says that the “heavenly bodies” will be burned up and dissolved, and the King James version says that “the elements shall melt with fervent heat”. Now, the word “element” the way we use it in English is usually connected to the scientific definition of the word from chemistry, that an element is "a pure substance which cannot be broken down by chemical means, consisting of atoms which have identical numbers of protons in their atomic nuclei” (Wikipedia). And so over the years this verse has been held up as a description of some terrible fiery cataclysm (such as a nuclear explosion) fierce enough to “melt the elements”.
The Greek word here, stoiecha, however, is not used to refer to the chemical elements (which was developed at the beginning of the 20th Century), but to the “fundamental realities of the world”, the “way things are”. (There is probably a nod to Greek philosophy here that said that the manifest world we see around us is tied to an archetypical world of definitions…)
The Apostle Paul uses this same word this way in Galatians 4:3, when he writes
Galatians 4:3 ESV
3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
I think Peter is saying the same sort of thing here when he writes that when the Day of the LORD comes the “stoiecha” will be burned up and dissolved—the elementary principles of this world—the fundamental rebellion of this age against God, the dyed-in-the-wool rejection of Him, will be burned away when He comes, and there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth in which righteousness, not rebellion, dwells!
That’s what’s in view when Paul writes in Romans 8 that
Romans 8:22–23 ESV
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Peter says to the beleaguered, ridiculed church of his day that we can be patient, because just as God kept His promise to wash away the world’s rebellion by the Flood in Noah’s day (2 Peter 3:5-6), so the Day is coming when Jesus Christ will return
2 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV
8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
All the hatred and opposition and rebellion that you see in the highest places of our world will be burned up and dissolved! So be patient, because God’s patience will result in the utter and complete vindication of His people!
When we look at the world through our Father’s eyes, we have patience to wait for Christ’s return. God’s patience means salvation for His people, and

II. God’s patience means HOLINESS for His people (2 Peter 3:11, 14)

Look at verse 11 of our text:
2 Peter 3:11 ESV
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
When you feel the impatience for the Day of the LORD to be revealed against the godlessness of this world’s elemental principles, and you wish the Day would hurry up and get here, Peter says, consider that each day the Lord tarries means
More time to FIGHT your SIN
If the Day of Christ’s return means judgment on sin and rebellion and disobedience, Peter says, then look to your own life, Christian, and use the time you are given before His appearing to strive for the holiness that He has promised you! Peter says it again in verse 14:
2 Peter 3:14 ESV
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
The word for spot is the same word that appears in James 1:27, where James exhorts his readers that God calls us to “keep ourselves unstained from the world”. Every day that you wake up, Christian, and Christ has not returned, is another day for you to go to war against the sin that still dwells in you! Jesus warns in Luke 12:40
Luke 12:40 ESV
40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Don’t be like the servant in that parable that says, “My master is delayed in coming” and goes and gets drunk and beats his employees—when the Master returned and saw him, his punishment was severe.
Peter says the same thing here in our text—that “The day of the LORD will come like a thief”: You do not know when He will come, so live like He is returning at any moment!
God’s patience means holiness for His people—more time to fight your sin, and
More time to SHINE the GOSPEL (Philippians 2:15)
Peter says that since Christians are waiting for the return of Christ to dissolve the sinful rebellion and evil of this world and replace it with a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells, that we must be diligent to be found without spot or blemish (v. 14). The word for blemish also appears in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, where he writes that the church must be “blameless—there’s our word—and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation...” As one pastor puts it, “If we are not deliberately thinking about our culture and context, we will be conformed to it without ever knowing” (Tim Keller).
But there in Philippians 2:15 Paul goes on to say the reason that we are to keep ourselves unstained from the world is so that we will “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life… (vv. 15-16a). Christian—every day that you wake up and Christ has not returned is another opportunity for you to be a demonstration of what happens to a person when they are transformed by the Gospel! When the world around you sees the change that Jesus has made in you, all of the old life passed away and the New Life of Christ living in you, when they see you “without spot or blemish” of past guilt, when they see you living at peace in the tumultuous and uncertain and difficult days you live in, you are shining the light of that Gospel to a world that desperately needs to see it! And every day that you wake up and Christ has not yet returned is another day for you to shine that light!
When we look at the world through our Father’s eyes, we have patience to wait for Christ’s return. God’s patience means salvation for His people, it means holiness for His people. And the third thing we see in this passage is that

III. God’s promises are HASTENED by His people (2 Peter 3:12, 14)

I said earlier that there is a sense in which we don’t just wait for the return of Christ, but that we actually hasten His coming. I say this because that is what God’s Word says in verse 12, which says that we are
2 Peter 3:12 ESV
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!
But what does that mean? Does this mean that God looks down and sees how hard His Christians are working on transforming the world and saying, “Wow! They’re really crushing it down there! Guess I’ll have to move the schedule for Judgment Day up a couple of weeks!”
When you say it like that, it’s pretty obvious that’s not what Peter has in mind here. But a closer look at the word hastening here in this verse helps us understand. The original word means to “earnestly desire” something—to want it so badly that you are always pushing for it. In the same way that you might tell a child that is so “earnestly desiring” Christmas morning to arrive that they are “wishing away” the rest of the month, the picture here is that we are so eager for the coming of Christ that we are so focused on His coming that everything we do is part of wanting it to come.
There are in this passage a couple of ways that our eagerness for the Day of Christ’s return to come that we hasten His return. First, we are “hastening” the coming of the Day of the LORD
When we are eager to PREACH REPENTANCE (2 Peter 3:9)
Think back again to verse 9—God is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”. If God is the father standing and patiently holding the elevator door open until all of His children are ready for the ride up, then how do you “hasten” that ride? By going out and getting as many of them in the doors as possible!
Now, be careful here: This doesn’t mean that the Second Coming of Christ will be delayed until you get out there and do your job of evangelism—if God is not speeding up the date of Christ’s return because of your exceptional work, He’s not delaying it because of your failure. But what this does mean is that you can have confidence to know that the acts of ministry and love and evangelism and service that you do carry out in His Name are effective in His hands as instruments to bring about His Second Coming!
Think of this, Christian—you may feel like your attempts to share the Gospel with your friends or co-workers fall flat. You may think that giving away winter coats or school supplies is a meager contribution to the Kingdom. You may get out into the Youth Group garden in the middle of summer with the weeds and the bugs and the heat and put out vegetables that wind up smashed and vandalized in the square down the street. You may work for years in Sunday School and Junior Church and Youth Group with a child only to see them go off to college and completely abandon all of the Christian instruction you worked so hard to provide for them.
But when you do those things in His Name, and when you give those works up to His will, God uses every last one of those acts, no matter how small, to bring about real advancement towards the arrival of His Kingdom in the Second Coming of Christ! God is sovereign over all human history, and He is sovereign over the actions of His people to bring about His will in human history! And when you are eager to preach repentance, to share the Gospel of the grace of God in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners, He uses every last drop of your eagerness to bring about His Kingdom!
God’s promises are hastened by His people when we are eager to preach repentance, and His promises are hastened
When we are eager to PURSUE HOLINESS
There’s nothing like having a ton of Christmas shopping to do to make Christmas Day feel like it’s rushing down on you, right? There’s nothing that makes the hours fly by like having a deadline looming at you and a mountain of work to do, is there? Christian, do you want to “hasten” the day of Christ’s return—do you want it to feel like it’s coming so quickly that you don’t know what to do?
Then turn your attention to the progress you still have to make in holiness! Live the way the 18th Century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote in his Resolutions:
19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
This also is what it means to “hasten” the coming of Christ—live like He is coming back tomorrow! Live like you will hear the cry of command and the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God at any minute! When you are snagged in your mind by some temptation to sin, ask yourself: “Do I want to be doing this at the moment Jesus returns for me? Do I want to hear that trumpet call just as I log in to a porn site, do I want to hear that cry of command just as some angry curse comes out of my mouth at my kids, do I want the very last motion of my spirit before He arrives to be towards complaining and criticizing? Beloved, hasten the day of His coming in your eagerness to pursue holiness before Him!
As we consider the fiery return of Jesus Christ—a fiery return that could happen at any moment, that will dissolve the elemental principles of sin and rebellion in this world, the return that will burn the creation clean of sin the way the Flood washed it clean thousands of years ago—the question Peter asks in verse 11 still hangs in the air for us this morning:
2 Peter 3:11 ESV
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
What kind of godliness and holiness are you going to need on that day? I’ll give you a hint: NOT YOUR OWN! When that day comes—perhaps before the sun sets this evening—you will need a godliness and holiness that will enable you to stand when Jesus Christ is revealed in flaming fire with His mighty angels inflicting vengeance on those who do not obey His Gospel (1 Thess. 1:7-8). And the Good News is that you can have the godliness and holiness of Christ Himself on that day!
The only way that you will stand when “the heavens pass away with a roar and the elemental principles of this world are burned up and dissolved and the earth and the works done on it are exposed” (2 Peter 3:10) is not by saying, “Well, I’ve tried to be a good person, I’ve done more good things than bad, God will understand!” It’s not by saying, “Well, I went to a good church every Sunday and got baptized and gave regularly!” It’s not by saying, “Well, my mom and dad were really good Christians and always taught me Bible stories!” Those are the responses that you hear all the time from people when you ask them what they will say when they stand before God on the Day of Judgment—maybe you’ve even given one of those answers yourself.
If you have, then you need to understand from this passage that, if you are trusting in one of those answers to save you on that Day, you will be burned up right along with them. There is only one way to know that you will stand on the day when the heavens and earth pass away with a roar, and that is by knowing that you stand in the godliness and holiness of Jesus Christ Himself!
You can have that assurance today—you can walk out of this room today knowing that if the Second Coming of Christ comes tonight, you will be ready! Friend, for all you know, the reason that Jesus did not come back last night was because He was giving you the chance to hear this sermon today!
So count the patience of our Lord as salvation for you today—call on Him and repent of your sin and your belief that you could stand before Him with your own holiness and godliness, place your faith in His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins, and receive by faith His perfect righteousness that will give you the ability to stand before Him when He returns! Let us pray with you and show you from the Bible how you can know that if you hear that trumpet call of the Second Coming of Christ tonight that you will be ready! So come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Why is it so frustrating to you when you hear outsiders mock you for your belief in Jesus’ return? Read 2 Peter 3:8-9 again. What does this verse tell us about one of the reasons that God is patiently waiting to fulfil His promise of Christ’s return? How does this understanding give you patience with those who mock you in unbelief?
Read 2 Peter 3:14 again. How does Peter encourage his readers to think about the way they should spend their time waiting for Christ’s return? What are some areas of your life where you are still “blemished” or “stained” by this world’s patterns of ignoring God’s will and disobeying His commands? How can you fight against those things this week?
What does it mean to “hasten” the coming of the Day of the LORD? How can you know that your acts of ministry and service for the sake of the Gospel are setting the stage for Jesus’ Second Advent? How does remembering that Jesus could return in the next hour help you battle temptation in your life? Where can you use this truth to help you fight sin this week?
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