I want you to concentrate as we read 2 Peter 3:8-13.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

  1. If we fail to examine the context of this scripture, we miss Peter's major emphasis.
    1. In chapter one Peter emphasized the need for Christians to mature and grow as they lived in this evil world.
    2. In chapter two Peter stressed that this evil world would become increasingly wicked.
      1. Influential teachers would declare that they were speaking for God, but their message was not God's message.
      2. They would declare that God really did not care how you lived, when the truth is this: how you live is basic to belonging to God.
      3. Peter said there was nothing new about this; there have always been people who lived as though God did not care what they did.
    3. In chapter three Peter said things would become so horrible, so evil that Christians would begin to wonder.
      1. "Where is Jesus Christ?"
      2. "He promised that he would come back."
      3. "Why doesn't he come?"
    4. The scripture we read is Peter's response to two things.
      1. He responded to the fact this is a wicked world.
      2. He responded to the fact that Jesus had not yet returned.
    5. This is his response:
      1. First, God does not look at time in the same way people look at time.
        1. With people, time is a key consideration in virtually everything; with God, time is a key consideration in nothing.
        2. Peter was not saying, "Let me tell you how God calculates time. A thousand human years equals one God year."
        3. He made this simple statement, "God does not look at time like people look at time."
        4. People measure faithfulness and promises in the terms of time.
        5. God does not; time has no influence on God's faithfulness or His promises.
      2. Second, God is not slow; He is patient.
        1. To a human, slow typically means that you are irresponsible, forgetful, negligent, and uncaring.
        2. Patient means that you are responsible, mindful, and care deeply, but that you will take as much time as necessary to achieve your purposes.
        3. God's patience appears to be slowness to people who are frantic about time.
        4. But that is a human impression because we humans impatiently think primarily in terms of our physical existence.
      3. Third, this physical creation was completely perverted and distorted by evil.
        1. Our physical world has not served God's intended purposes, and evil makes it impossible for the world ever to serve those purposes.
        2. There is one solution, and it is the only solution.
        3. To eliminate evil and wickedness in our physical world, the entire creation must be destroyed.
        4. There will be an enormous roar and a heat so intense that everything will burn.
      4. Fourth, you Christians know that is true.
        1. Since you know this physical creation will be eliminated with extreme heat, that must determine the way you live your life.
        2. You should focus your daily life on holy conduct and godliness.
      5. Fifth, when the world is destroyed, it will not a terrible moment, but a good moment.
        1. If it were in our power, Christians would have this happen sooner instead of later.
        2. We want to live in that existence where there is righteousness but no evil.

  2. Today, look around you, be totally aware: anything that you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is not permanent.
    1. This whole day be aware of this truth: everything around you is temporary.
      1. One of two things is be true of everything.
        1. Either it will die.
        2. Or it will evaporate with intense heat.
      2. In human existence, there is only one exception: the person.
        1. When you became a living being, God placed in you a touch of the eternal.
        2. The person who lives inside your body will never die.
        3. When you as a person began to exist, you began a journey that will never end--the person who lives inside your body will never stop existing.
      3. My body will either die or evaporate, but I won't.
        1. Your body will either die or evaporate, but you won't.
        2. Your child's body will either die or evaporate, but your child won't.
    2. I ask you two questions.
      1. Question one: will this congregation have the leadership it needs after you die?
        1. If it does, someone's children will provide it.
        2. Children who are alive right now will provide leadership for this congregation when all of us adults are dead.
      2. Question two: will their leadership teach people how to live in Jesus Christ?
        1. Peter said their world would become increasingly evil because people did not know how to live, because they believed that God did not care how they lived.
        2. That has already happened many times, and it is happening again now.
        3. Will our world become increasingly evil because people do not know how to live? Will people think God does not care how people live? Do the majority already think that? Do you think that?
    3. Your child is completely surrounded every minute of his or her life by things that will die and things that will evaporate.
      1. Is everything that your child considers important in his or her life something that will die or evaporate?
      2. Does your child know that anything exists besides things that die or evaporate?
      3. If your child has heard that eternal realities exist, does he or she think these things are real or does he or she think such things exist only in Mom and Dad's imagination?
      4. If your child becomes an adult who lives by your priorities, what will happen?

  3. What I now share with you I share by permission.
    1. I do not know the name of the teenager who wrote this.
      1. I know that this teen is a Christian, a member of this congregation.
      2. I know this teen is a high school student, not a junior high student, and is a very good student.
    2. Consider:
      This student has a lot of questions about heaven and struggles in trying to find a trustworthy concept of heaven.
      1. "Also I wonder, where is heaven? Not exactly but close to where it exists."
      2. "Another thing I have been thinking of, is how uncomprehensible heaven actually is, how no human being could ever really understand the magnitude without actually being there ... For some reason it scares me, probably the fear of the unknown, but Heaven scares me."
      3. "I mean I totally believe in God and totally want to go to heaven, but it is just weird. We're all raised with different views of heaven some we get from ourselves and some we get from others. I went to so many different types of churches when I was little and heard so many different views. But all the views they said came from the Bible, but they were pretty much all different. I understand them saying it differently when we are kids, but what does that really do but confuse us now; case example one: me."
      4. "... Sometimes we need someone to push us or help us understand; not mislead me like when I was a child ..."

[Prayer: Help us understand and trust.]

Our children live in a world that changed radically before they were born. Our children live in a society that changed radically before they were born. Most of us adults do not live in the same world our children live in. The truth is both simple and frightening. The older we are, the less we have to live every day in full exposure to our world and our society. Age gives us the luxury of isolation.

But our children live in that world every day. And our children do not have the luxury of isolation. We older Christians can be puzzled and baffled and shocked and even deny that this radically different world exists. The only thing that puzzles, baffles, and shocks our children are Christian adults who know nothing about the world they are forced to live in every day.

Consider a great irony of Christianity today. God sent His Son Jesus to be the Christ, to be our Savior, to prove His enormous love for us, and to destroy our fears. Almost 2000 years later, the church has many older Christians who believe in God but are afraid of Him, and has many younger Christians who believe in God, but are afraid to live where He lives. That is not what God intended when He sent us Jesus. God sent us Jesus to give us security by destroying our fear.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 October 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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