2 Peter 3:14-18 ~ "Ready for Christ's Return"
When I was in Seminary in Toronto, I sat over the lunch table with a man who told us that, “I was led to faith in Christ right here in Avenue Road Church under the preaching of Charles Templeton.”
You remember Charles Templeton, the evangelist friend of Billy Graham who founded Avenue Road Church of the Nazarene in Toronto, who co-founded Youth for Christ, International with Billy Graham then went to Princeton Theological Seminary. It was during this time that he began to have doubts about Christianity and then renounced the Christian faith, declaring himself to be an agnostic.
Many people were deeply saddened by the apostasy of this highly gifted man including his good friend Billy Graham.
When he was in his eighties, suffering from Alzheimer’s, but still capable of clear conversation, he was interviewed by Lee Strobel. In his book A Case for Faith, Strobel tells of a conversation they shared:
“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question—but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.
Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .
” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’
“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, and then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”
While some may dismiss this as the ramblings of an old man in his weakness, I suspect that that was an expression of his deepest real feelings.
Charles Templeton was not ready for the Lord’s return, nor was he really ready for his own death a few years later.
But readiness for the Lord’s return is of critical importance.
Again and again both the Lord Jesus and the apostles urge us to watch for His coming, to be prepared, to be faithful.
Now, as Peter concludes his final message to them, knowing that he is soon to be martyred, he gives this exhortation:
2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the long suffering of our Lord is salivation— as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
He urges us to look forward to those things: the word again is “watch - to be in expectation of” those things. Here is something to eagerly anticipate.
Well the question is: What things are we to eagerly anticipate? The answer is threefold: We are look forward to all the things about which he has just been telling us.
- We are to eagerly anticipate the return of the Lord Jesus Christ Acts 1:9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." It is that return at which men scoff "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."
- We are to eagerly anticipate the day of the Lord 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
- We are to eagerly anticipate the new heavens and new earth: 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Now Christians do eagerly anticipate Christ’s return. At least there is a lot of talk about it. There have been a multitude of books about the Lord’s return, some of which think that they have it all figured out. My wife and I have often joked that when the Lord comes, there may be some who protest saying, “No, no, that’s not the way it’s supposed to happen.”, but believers do join with the scriptures in saying, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
But I’m not sure that we like talking about “The Day of the Lord” - I spoke about it in the last message as “A terrible end and a glorious beginning.” But when I preached that the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up., I’m not sure that that is a message which people want to hear.
Yes, says Peter you need to look forward to and be prepared for the return of Christ which also involves the complete transition of life. Although the new heavens and the new earth don’t seem to get much attention, I am convinced that the new heavens and new earth are what the whole of earth’s history has been all about. It seems to me that we will come full circle to God’s real purpose in all of creation. All of this is a preparation for that day when “I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." Revelation 21: 3 - 5
The question now becomes: How are we to prepare for these three sure and certain events? Well, surely he is going to tell us of some great new way in which we can prepare for Christ’s return. But, no, He tells us the same things that scripture has told us all the way through.
I want you to notice something: Peter does not tell us these things so we may speculate about the future or argue about the various views of eschatology. To Peter, this subject is eminently practical. He tells us about what is coming to encourage us to faithfulness, to steadfastness, and to spiritual growth. God gives us glimpses of the future, in order that we may be ready, that we may be watchful, and that we may be useful.
Yes there is coming a day when the present heavens and earth will be destroyed, and a new heaven and earth will be born as Isaiah foretold, and as Revelation describes in glorious detail. It will be splendid beyond our imagination, but it is the moral, the ethical, and the spiritual teaching which is uppermost.
11 “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,”
In light of the glory of the holy place to which we are going, with its complete absence of sin and unrepentant sinners, it is clear that our chief desire during this present time should be to get our hearts in tune with the heart of God.
Let us therefore be diligent
- To be found in peace
- To be found in purity, blameless
- To be found sharing our faith
- To be found steadfast
- To be found growing in grace and the knowledge of our: Lord Jesus Christ.
- Let us therefore be diligent to be found in peace
3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace
Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
If this involves trying to be at peace with all men, how much more does it imply the importance of believers living at peace with one another? Now I will be the first to confess that I do not always find that easy. I am still prone to the sin of temper which can so easily get me into trouble. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. When that happens, I am willing to apologize but apologies are not always received. There is no doubt that I still need the sanctifying grace of our Lord Jesus. Perhaps there are others who are also aware of that need.
- Let us therefore be diligent to be found in purity, “without spot” “blameless;”
2a) free from censure, irreproachable 2b) free from vice, unsullied
This refers to moral purity. We are to watch over our minds and our bodies. We are to resist temptation but we dare not fool ourselves.
No man is so in himself, our sanctification is imperfect, and many are the slips and falls of the saints, though their desire is to be harmless and inoffensive, and to give no just occasion for blame or scandal. The good news is that the saints are declared to be in Christ Jesus, washed in his blood, and clothed with his righteousness. This is why we rejoice in 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The further good news is that when he comes again, He will present us to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, and also before the presence of his Father’s glory, as faultless, with exceeding joy; and so will we be fit and meet to be the inhabitants of the new heavens and new earth, and reign with him to all eternity.
- Let us therefore be diligent to be found sharing our faith 15 “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salivation as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
Why does the Lord tarry? He tarries because the salvation of sinners is not yet complete. Listen again to Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” This I believe to be the most important of the “signs” listed in Matthew 24
It is God’s will that all will hear the gospel and we have our part in sharing with others the good news of Christ and His salvation.
I was thrilled this morning to have a man come to the door with his face glowing. “I’m ready,” he said. I looked at him and he said again, “I’m ready”. You’re ready - for baptism? I asked. “Yes,” he said, I’m ready.” Does this mean that you have trusted Christ as your Saviour? I asked? “Yes” was his simple answer. Pastor was there and will follow up with this man to make sure of his understanding and commitment.
This is what it’s all about, dear ones. The gospel must be preached in all the world, including right here in Kamloops and in First Baptist Church. God is gathering together His elect and not one will be missing. I don’t understand all of that, but I know it is true. God is preparing the new heavens and new earth, where He will dwell with the whole family. Not one will be missing.
- Let us therefore be diligent to be found steadfast 17 “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness being led away with the error of the wicked;”
As believers we are to stand fast in our faith in Christ. This is what Charles Templeton did not do. Perhaps someone should have warned him at an early stage that one of the qualifications of a pastor is that he be “not a novice lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.”” The fact is that he began to preach almost as soon as he had professed faith in Christ. He founded Avenue Road Church, very early on and it was quite a large church. Then he quickly got involved with Billy Graham in evangelism and establishing Youth for Christ. He had not been to Seminary or Bible College. Perhaps he had not had time to think through the ramifications of the Christian faith.
I don’t condemn him. But it reminds me of the importance of being as well grounded as possible in the Word of God.
- Let us therefore be diligent to be found growing in grace and the knowledge of our: Lord Jesus Christ. 18 “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
Some of you may remember that I preached this as a text for the new year as we entered 2016, with the prospects of the merger of our two churches. It was mistakenly thought that I was twisting the scriptures to make them approve the merger.
That was not the case. In fact I used this verse to warn us about the dangers that we might face as we entered this new territory. But I had no apology for urging us all to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was going to take His grace to meet the challenges which would face us in this new and unexplored experience.
I hope that we have all done that. For myself, I just thank God over and over again for what He has done in our midst.
The bottom line of this message is: Let us be ready for the Lord’s return. Amen