Christ For Today – December 3, 2017
Text: 2 Peter 3: 8 – 15b (emphasis 8-9)
Focus: Christ’s delay is God’s gift of mercy
Advent is characterized by celebration in that, we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ the promised Messiah; it is also characterized with much anticipation as we await the final coming and it is marked with continued preparation for we know not the day or the hour of the final coming. Advent places believers in between the times of “the already” and the “not yet” and thus calls us to a posture of waiting. But as we live in-between these times we are faced with much cynicism which sometimes border on ridicule when we speak of awaiting the return of our Lord. So often we hear scoffers say, “Is from my eyes at my knees I hear that Jesus soon come and all now he has not returned.” The truth is, the delay has caused many to doubt the second coming will ever take place and as such are drawn to immoral living. We have not only become a people who practice immorality but also a people who promote immorality in almost every facet of life for we are influenced by those who believe that the Lord will not return. But this is not a new phenomenon.
Peter, writing to believers scattered throughout the regions of Asia Minor was concerned that his fellow believers were tempted to believe those whom he called ‘scoffers’ − people who ask, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation" (3:4). Recognizing the prevailing danger,Peter wrote in 2nd Peter 3: verse 8 to verse 15:
8 But 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. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But 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 done in it will be laid bare.[a] 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.
(2 Peter: 3: 8-15: New International Version)
Peter urged his fellow believers to rethink their understanding of time - “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.” (vs. 8) As we enter this period of celebration, anticipation and preparation which calls us to a posture of waiting we too may want to remind ourselves that how we understand time is different from God’s understanding of time. With God time passes neither slower nor swifter than is suitable to God and his mission in the world. Therefore Christ’s delay must not be seen as an abandonment of the promised return; or should it be seen as tardiness/slackness or as if he has exceeded the due time as though that time has already passed. Jesus Christ our Lord did not ascend on a non-immigrant visa and is restricted by the time limits of that visa. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day!
So how then should we consider Christ’s delay? Peter’s letter provides for his hearers and readers a most helpful way in which Christ’s delay ought to be considered. Let us hear Peter - “The 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.” The Lord is exercising patience and is delaying judgment because his preferred option is that we will all come to repentance so none will perish. The delay of the final coming is to our advantage and should be seen as God’s gift of mercy.
My sisters and brothers first …
- 1. Christ’s Delay is gift of mercy to the Church:
- Christ’s delay as God’s gift of mercy to the Unrepentant – the unrepentant in this instance refers to those who have heard the gospel but refuse
In this time of celebration, anticipation and preparation, in our places of “the already” and “the not yet” in a posture of waiting, let us see Christ’s delay as a gift of mercy to the community of faith. It should not be lost on us that Peter was writing to the believers and therefore it means that God is exercising patience with the faith community because he wants none to perish. We experience this gift in three ways:
Let us consider the delay as gift of mercy for our Salvation: God continues to exercise patience with us so that we may be found to be spotless, blameless and at peace with our Lord. Each day we are being saved from our bad habits, our nagging weaknesses, from the clutches of corruption, secularization greed and wanton waste through God’s gift of mercy. We are continually being given the opportunity for repentance each day as God delays his coming. For even those of us who have already come into the grace of God as sometimes overtaken by the sins which so easily besets us.
Let us consider the delay as gift of mercy for our Sanctification: Instead of doubting the return as the scoffers would want us to do, let us grasp the gift of mercy as an opportunity to be drawn closer to God as we receive the fuller, deeper, richer relationship which God offers to us so that we may become more like Christ. As we live in this posture of waiting, let us use the time to examine our lives and to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit as he does the work of melting, moulding and shaping to make us who God wants us to be and become.
Let us consider the delay as gift of mercy for our Provision: In this time of delay we see it as a gift of mercy as we experience the faithfulness of God demonstrated toward us in God’s undying love and compassion. We live each day in the expectation of God’s generosity toward all of God’s people. As we live in this time of expectancy our needs are being met out of God’s divine providence and love. God gives to us each day our daily bread. He provides for us according to his riches in glory.
In the delay of the final coming, we experience God’s gift of mercy to the church through salvation, sanctification and provision, which enables us to live holy and godly lives. Had it not been for the grace of God (God’s favour) extended to us by the wideness of God’s mercy we would have had chaotic, confused and troubled lives. We would live beneath burdens of guilt and shame. We would have been overwhelmed and weighed down by the impure ungodly and unholy things of this world. But thanks be to God for his gift of mercy, we are at peace with him!
Therefore, as recipients of God’s gift of mercy to the church, in our posture of waiting we ought to exercise patience with those who have not yet come into the faith. In so doing the church will be seen as the place embodying God’s preferred option for everyone to come to repentance, not wanting any to perish! This ought to challenge us to give of ourselves to the tasks of discipleship and witnessing. What a demonstration of our gratitude and thankfulness for God’s gift of mercy that would be!
My friends, Christ’s delay is God’s gift of mercy to the church, but it is also God’s gift of mercy to the unrepentant among us. The use of ‘anyone” and “everyone” would suggest that Peter was addressing not just the believers but it was a message for all persons.
to confess their sins, turn from their evil ways and yield themselves in personal relationships with God, through Jesus Christ in the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
Hear Peter as he states that it is not God’s desire for any to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. Therefore as we await the final coming, let us consider God’s delay as opportunity for everyone to repent and come into relationship with God. An opportunity given to all as John the Baptist went out preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in anticipation of the first coming of the Messiah. Repentance speaks to persons being sorry for their sins and to make a right about turn to God and be reconciled unto God.
God’s delay is the demonstration of God’s patience for all to come into a saving relationship with God for he does not want any to perish. “As surely, as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11) God’s desire for redemption of all is evident in salvation history. God has always had a plan to save or to rescue humanity. Beginning with the laws and prophets through priests, judges and kings and ultimately in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the one whom we await his return.
If you are listening to me and you have not yet made personal declaration of faith in God, I challenge you not to interpret Christ’s delay as indication that he will not return but rather as God’s gift of mercy to you. God being patient because he wants none to perish! Today, I remind you that God loves you and wants you to come to him in personal relationships; to confess your sins and to seek his forgiveness? This is more than regular attendance at church and it more than getting involved in church activities. God wants to see you grow in Christlikeness and to live holy and godly lives so that you too may be presented spotless and blameless before the throne. What will you do with this gift of mercy? Will you continue to reject it, to be indifferent toward it because you doubt his final coming and so have given in to immorality? Or will you receive it this gift today? Peter writes that Christ will come like a thief in the night; therefore you do not have the luxury to squander the opportunity provided by Christ’s delay. So make a reasoned decision today, receive God’s gift of mercy so you will not perish “but in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” This ought to comfort us and provide hope for when God in Christ shall return, he will make his dwelling among us. The old order will be passed away – no more corruption, arrogance from our politicians, oppression of the poor and manipulation of the masses, crime and violence, poverty and hardships will be gone for evermore - we ought to say amen come quickly Lord Jesus! We look forward to the day of God and speed its coming!
May God help us to see Christ’s delay as his gift of mercy to all of us as we mark another Advent season characterized be celebration, anticipation and preparation! As we find ourselves in between times – the already and the not yet may in our posture of waiting may we receive God’s gift mercy extended to all to the glory of his name, Amen!
In celebration, in anticipation, in preparation: wait and work for the coming of the day of God.
Lead lives of holiness and godliness; strive to be found at peace,
And speak freely of the Lord’s comfort and promise even among scoffers.
And may the God of Advent continue to be patient with us;
May Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, lead us to God's gift of mercy;
And may the Holy Spirit baptise us into the life of God so that we may be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
In the name of triune God! Amen!