! Text: 2 Peter 3:3-13 (NIV)
3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The 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.
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Introduction: Time is contained between its beginning and its end.
I. Time’s Passage Demands Explanation.
A. Its regular passage questions time’s beginning.
The initial act of eliminating our Creator God from our thinking is so immoral and unethical in itself as to render the following concern with ethical fine points quite absurd. It's as if students were to murder the teacher and then sit down to have serious discussions about proper manners in the classroom.
-- Steven J. Keillor in Prisoners of Hope. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 1.
B. Its regular passage questions our temptations.
There are two big lies that Satan has been perpetrating ever since the Garden of Eden. The first is that God is mean, vindictive, a spoilsport whose main role in life is to keep us from being fulfilled and happy--when we step out of bounds, he takes delight in making us pay.
The second lie is that God really doesn't care what we do--probably doesn't know. And if he does, his business is to forgive us. He'll always forgive no matter what, so it really doesn't make much difference how we live and what we believe.
-- B. Clayton Bell, "Many Happy Returns," Preaching Today, Tape No. 135.
C. Its regular passage questions time’s end.
-- This is the song that never ends
It goes on and on my friend
II. Time’s Patience Desires Examination
A. Patience allows probation.
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for "religious" things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship.
October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever--the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, "Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper."
The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. ... It read simply, "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October."
-- William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 11.
B. Patience allows repentance.
SUBTOPIC: Its Value
TITLE: The Most Precious Thing
I read a story, a long time ago, having in it a moral that pleased
me. It represented our heavenly Father as telling a man, if he would
bring up to the gate of heaven the most precious thing that could be
found in this world, it would gain his admittance into heaven.
"Then I am sure of heaven," he said. "I know what the most precious
thing in the world is."
He went to a mint where the best specimens of gold could be found,
and obtaining the purest piece possible, flew up to the gates of
pearl, sure that heaven would be opened to him, but found the gates
closed and bolted against him. He was told that was not the most
precious thing; that their streets are paved with gold, as it were
He came again. This time he obtained the most exquisitely beautiful
specimen of jewelry; nothing richer or more beautiful on earth of its
kind. He carried this up, but found the door still shut against him.
He was told that no one used jewelry there. It was really of no value
in heaven. He must go again.
This time he was walking on the beach, under the shade of beautiful
trees, thinking over what that most precious thing could be, when his
attention was attracted to a beautiful little child lying on the grass
under the shade of these trees, with its innocent face upturned
towards heaven, in a sweet sleep. Just then a robber came to this
little child, and stood over it for a moment, apparently in deep
thoughtfulness, gazing on its innocent face, the child unconscious of
any danger. The robber, reviewing his own life in his guilt and
wickedness, and contrasting it with the innocence of that little
child, drew a deep sigh of regret and sorrow over his life of sin,
when a tear of penitence dropped from his eye. The man in search of
earth's most precious thing, caught this tear, and flew up to heaven's
gate with it, when he found the gates thrown wide open to him, with a
hearty welcome from the heavenly ones, saying:
"Yes, you have brought the most precious thing that can be found on
earth the Tear of Repentance."
So, dear friend, if your bosom sighs over a life of sin, and the
tear of penitence moistens your cheeks, do not wipe it away, or bide
it, but let it dry on your face, for no earthly jewelry could so adorn
your person. -- A. B. Earle, From: "Incidents Used ... In His
Meetings," published in 1888
C. Patience allows deliverance
In the late 1800s, Charles Berry, an English preacher, became the pastor of the great Plymouth Church in Brooklyn. One day Berry described how earlier he had come to Jesus Christ.
There had been a time in Berry's early ministry when he preached a very thin gospel--really no gospel at all. As did the Corinthians, he looked upon Jesus as merely a noble teacher but not as a divine redeemer.
Late one night during his first pastorate, as he sat in his cozy study, there came a knock. He opened the door and found a typical Lancashire girl with a shawl over her head and clogs on her feet.
"Are you a minister?" she asked. Getting an affirmative answer, she went on breathlessly. "You must come with me quickly. I want you to get my mother in."
Thinking it was a case of some drunken mother out in the streets, Berry said, "You must go and get a policeman."
"No," said the girl, "My mother is dying, and you must come and get her into heaven."
Berry got dressed and followed her for a mile and a half through lonely streets in the night. He knelt at the woman's side, and he began telling her how good and kind Jesus was and how he'd come to show us how to live.
Then the desperate woman cut him off. "Mister," she cried, "that's no use for the likes of me. I'm a sinner. I've lived my life. Can't you tell me of someone who can have mercy upon me and save my poor soul?"
"I stood there in the presence of a dying woman," said Berry, "and I realized I had nothing to tell her. In the midst of sin and death, I had no message. In order to bring something to that dying woman, I leaped back to my mother's knee, to my cradle faith, and I told her the story of the Cross and of a Christ who is able to save to the uttermost." The tears began to run down the woman's cheeks.
"Now you're getting it," she said. "Now you're helping me."
Berry concluded the story by saying, "I got her in, and blessed be God, I got in myself."
-- Gordon MacDonald, "The Centerpiece of the Gospel," Preaching Today, Tape No. 137.
III. Time’s Promise Delivers Extinction.
A. There is a promise of a sudden end.
When Robinson Crusoe's good man Friday asked him, "Why doesn't God destroy the devil?" Robinson Crusoe gave him the right answer, the only answer, the great answer. He said, "God will destroy him."
B. There is a promise of a sure judgement.
Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of
what you will do at last? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he
sits down, he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is
no delicacy in season which he forgets to bespeak. He stops at the
inn for some time. By and by, the bill is forthcoming, and it takes
him by surprise. "I never thought of that! I never thought of that!"
"Why," says the landlord, "here is a man who is either a born fool,
or else a knave. What! Never thought of the reckoning, never thought
of settling with me !"
After this fashion, too many lie. They eat and drink and sin, but
they forget the inevitable hereafter, when, for all deeds done in the
body, the Lord will bring us into judgment. --C. H. Spurgeon
C. There is a promise of a swift destruction.
IV. Time’s Present Declares Evaluation.
A. The moment explores our present condition.
The church speaks the language of the End, so that we will know just how high the stakes are in the present.
-- Robert Macfarlane in a sermon (Nov. I0, 1992). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 2.
It is precisely because of the eternity outside time that everything in time becomes valuable and important and meaningful. Therefore, Christianity ... makes it of urgent importance that everything we do here (whether individually or as a society) should be rightly related to what we eternally are. "Eternal life" is the sole sanction for the values of this life.
-- Dorothy L. Sayers in Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 11.
The words holiness and sanctification are not prominent in much of Protestant theology. We have tended to speak of justification without a commensurate emphasis on sanctification. ... Holiness means that one belongs wholly to God. This is also the meaning of sanctification, being set apart as God's own possession. When this begins internally, with the heart, the transformation becomes something that affects the total person.
-- Myron S. Augsburger in The Christ-Shaped Conscience. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 3.
B. The moment experiences a forward direction.
Life has an orientation, a final end toward which everything moves. I realize, however, that I can say this only because I am a Christian. I know that the human adventure moves on to fulfillment, not in glory, but in a rupture followed by a re-creation which is the consummation of this whole history. If I step outside this faith, the human adventure has no orientation of its own. It is not true that history as such has meaning. ... Human history is in fact a tale told by an idiot.
-- Jacques Ellul in What I Believe. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 5.
C. The moment expects a final decision
You cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late.
-- Sir Thomas Fuller, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 5.