Living in Light of His Return

2 Peter 3:14-18

June 13, 2015 | Brian Bill

We’re finishing up our study in the book of Second Peter today.  I went back and reread the first sermon in this series to see if we accomplished what we set out to do.  Here are the four purposes I shared for choosing this book:

1. To grow in our faith (3:18).

2. To be equipped to deal with error (2:1).

3. To savor the return of Jesus Christ (3:3-4, 10).

4. To be encouraged to persevere (3:17).

Hopefully we can all say we’ve made some progress these past couple months.  

As we come to the closing verses of this brief letter, let me remind you that Peter wrote these words shortly before he died.  Let’s look at the picture he paints as he nears the end of his life from 2 Peter 3:14-18: “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 longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—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.”

In verse 14 we see the word, “Therefore,” which sets up this final section.  Based upon everything he has just declared, this is what we should now do.  If this is what we say we believe, then this how we should behave.  Notice that he calls his readers “beloved,” which he does four times in this final chapter alone.  This word literally means, “divinely loved ones,” and also reveals Peter’s tender heart for these persecuted Christ-followers.  He then tells us to “look forward to these things.”  Specifically we’re to set our minds on verse 13 as we: “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  

Because we know this to be true, Peter challenges us with three closing conclusions:

  • Be Diligent to Show (14)
  • Be Discerning to Know (15-17)
  • Be Disciplined to Grow (18)

Our house painting involved three different steps.  We spent an entire day power washing and scraping and sanding.  Then we painted the wood siding.  This took three days.  And now we’re working on the trim.  This may take us all summer because we have to be precise.  These three phases serve as metaphors to help us understand our passage.

The first challenge is found in the second part of verse 14.  We could call this the prep work as the Holy Spirit does some power washing, scraping and sanding of our rough edges.

1. Be Diligent to Show. 

“Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”  To be “diligent” means to be “earnest and eager to do something hurriedly.”  The force of this command is something like this: “Be intensely diligent right now!”  This same word is used by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Commentator Matthew Henry offers this summary: “He who does the work negligently can never do it successfully.”  Jeremiah 48:10 puts it even more bluntly: “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness…”  Brothers and sisters, let’s not be spiritual slackers or pew potatoes.  A missionary friend made this point, “If you think you’ve arrived, you have…because you’re not going anywhere else.”

Go back to verse 14 and notice that there will be a day when we will be “found by Him.”  This means to “be laid bare” and was used in verse 10 to communicate the idea of being exposed. Peter tells us that there are at least two things that the Lord is looking for.

  • Peace.  If Jesus were to come back right now, would he find you “in peace”?  The word originally referred to the binding or joining together of that which has been broken or divided.  It literally means, “to set at one again” and is the opposite of being at war. 

“In the Land of the Blue Burqas” by Kate McCord she writes this: “I thought about forgiveness – sweet, true forgiveness, the only answer, the only solution for the remnants of horror in the hearts of my friends.  A grudge is a heavy thing, rocks in the heart.  Hatred turns to bitterness or fear.  Fear becomes immobilizing, paralyzing.  Bitterness becomes acid that burns us and every one around us.  A wound festers until it cripples.  That’s not what we were made for – no, not at all.  We were made for peace, love and joy.  We’re made to breathe, to laugh, and to dance, but it’s hard to dance when our hearts are full of rocks.”

Friend, is your heart full of rocks?  When Jesus returns will He find you festering in relational ruptures or do you know the peace that comes from forgiveness?  Do you have inner peace or are you filled with anxiety?  And most importantly, are you in a harmonious relationship with our heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ?

We’re called to make an intense effort to be morally pure.
  • Purity.  When Jesus exposes us for who we really are, will He find us “without spot and blameless”?  Peter here is not talking about our justification because we have already been declared righteous according to Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Instead he’s speaking of our progressive sanctification, of our moral uprightness and pursuit of holiness.  We’re called to make an intense effort to be morally pure.  Peter is also contrasting true Christ followers with false teachers who, according to 2 Peter 2:13-14, are “spots and blemishes because they have eyes filled with adultery and that cannot cease from sin.”

Friend, how do you want Christ to find you when He returns?  Are you at peace and are you living in purity?  1 John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”  After scraping and sanding so that we’re diligent to show, Peter spends a chunk of time painting the next section of this chapter by calling us to…

2. Be discerning to know. 

I get the word discerning from the words, “consider” in verse 15, “hard to understand” in verse 16, and “beware” in verse 17.  There are three key ways in which we’re to be discerning.  It’s important to keep the context in mind here because Peter is concerned about Christians being swept away by false teachers.  Let’s be discerning to know…

  • Our salvation.  Verse 15: “And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…”  Pastor Brown mentioned last week from 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 

Peter pulls in the Apostle Paul at this point to show that both of them have painted the picture of how God’s patience leads to salvation.  I love how he refers to Paul with such tenderness (“our beloved brother Paul”), even though he called out Peter in Galatians 2.  In Romans 2:4 we see Paul giving an example of God’s patience: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

This reminds me of the atheist who stood up and publicly denounced Christianity by issuing this challenge: “If there is a God, I will give Him five minutes to strike me dead!”  He took out his watch and waited.  After five minutes, he smiled and asked the group, “So if God really exists, why didn’t he strike me dead?”  A man leaned in and whispered, “Just give him time!”  Another answered: “Do you think you can exhaust the patience of Almighty God in just five minutes?”

  • The Scriptures.  Did you catch that Peter refers to the Apostle Paul’s writings as Scripture?  We’re then warned that untaught and unstable people will twist verses for their own purposes and to their own destruction.  The word “twist” was used of an instrument of torture that would wrench a prisoner’s back and dislocate his limbs.  We must make sure to never torture or twist the Scriptures to get them to say what we want them to say.  Check out verse 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.”  

I don’t know about you but I find great comfort knowing that Peter thought some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand.  I would agree with that.  I like what Mark Twain said in this regard: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

I am so thankful that the Bible is readily available today.  I marvel at the determination of men like Tyndale and Wycliffe who labored to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek into the language of the day.  We are so privileged, aren’t we?  Are you aware that the average American household has 4.4 Bibles?  And now with the free YouVersion app you can read the Bible in hundreds of different languages and choose from a variety of translations on your smartphone or tablet. 

There are three main categories of Bibles available today:

  • Formal Equivalence (word-for-word).  Examples include the New American Standard, the King James Version, the New King James Version and the English Standard Version.
  • Dynamic Equivalence (thought for thought).  This would include the NIV (1984 version) and the New Living Translation.
  • Paraphrases.  Two popular paraphrases are The Message and the Living Bible.

To me the real question is not what version we might be using but whether or now we are craving God’s Word.  Are we bored with the Bible or are we excited about the Scriptures?  According to a survey from the American Bible Society, “More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.”

  • Our steadfastness.  We need to be discerning about our salvation and about the Scriptures and then when things get rough we need to remain steadfast.  We see this in verse 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.”  To know something “beforehand” helps prepare us for what lies ahead.  We get our English word prognosis from this Greek word.  We can make adjustments when we know the truth about our condition.

The word “beware” calls us to be wary and to keep watch.  Sleepy believers will fall if they’re not on guard.  This word “fall” was used of shipwrecks, meaning if we’re not alert we can wreck our faith.  And then as the verse continues, we can be “led away with the error of the wicked.”  This has the idea of being carried off by teachers who are focused on just fulfilling desires and lusts.

In light of what’s happening in our culture and in our churches, I like what Albert Mohler said years ago in a post called “Which Way, Evangelicals?  There is Nowhere to Hide.”  You can read the entire article on the Sermon Extras tab on our website: “In this season of testing, Christians committed to the gospel of Christ are called upon to muster the greatest display of compassion and conviction of our lives.  But true compassion will never lead to an abandonment of biblical authority or a redefinition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  He’s really calling us to remain steadfast, no mater what happens in our society.

Beloved brothers and sisters, be diligent to show peace and purity.  Be discerning to know your salvation, the Scriptures and be steadfast.  That leads to the final point, which is really the main point of 2 Peter.  This is like painting the trim on the house.  It takes time to apply it but it’s so worth it.

3. Be disciplined to grow. 

Look at verse 18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  In contrast to falling or being led astray, God exhorts us to grow, which means to “enlarge, add or increase.”  It’s a present active imperative, which helps us see that our growth is to be a continual, passionate pursuit.  This was introduced in 2 Peter 1:8 where Peter called us to be “abounding in our faith.”   We’re to do it now and keep on doing it.  The best safeguard against falling down is to grow up in your faith.  It’s a bit like riding a bicycle.  If you stop moving forward, you’ll eventually fall over.

Notice that our growth is to take place in at least two areas.

  • In grace.  Grace means favor or a gift given to guilty people.  We don’t deserve it and we cannot earn it.  Are you growing in your understanding of the unmerited gift of God that not only saved you, but also sustains you?  One commentator says, “God’s grace is his active favor bestowing the greatest gift upon those who have deserved the greatest punishment.”  I like this definition of grace, using the letters as an acrostic – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  

Our salvation comes by grace and so does our sanctification.  It’s easy to think that now that we’re saved, it’s all up to us but as Paul said in Galatians 3:3, what was begun by the Spirit must continue by the Spirit: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

  • In knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The word “knowledge” refers to understanding.  We’re called to comprehend the words, works and ways of Christ.  In order to help us all grow in this way, we’ll be kicking off a series from the Gospel of Mark this fall.  As our culture continues to cave in morally and our society slides south spiritually, we must increasingly become people who know all we can about Jesus Christ in order to grow in our relationship with Him.  When we do we’ll be able to show the Savior to a world in desperate need of Him.

I love the four-fold title that Peter gives – “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  For the third time in this letter, Peter refers to Jesus as “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:11; 2:20).  It’s impossible to separate Jesus Christ as Savior from Jesus Christ as Lord.

  • Lord.  He is Lord and Master and Supreme in authority.  The word kurios translates the word Jehovah some 7000 times in the Old Testament translation called the Septuagint. 
  • Savior.  He is the One who rescues and saves and sustains.
  • Jesus.  This name means the Lord saves.  Matthew 1:21: “…And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
  • Christ.   This is the transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which means “anointed one,” or Messiah in Hebrew.  This title emphasizes that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah.

We submit to Him as Lord, we love Him as Savior, we adore Him as Jesus and we worship Him as Christ.

Our ultimate aim and highest purpose is to give our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “the glory both now and forever.  Amen.”  Steven Cole writes: “The overarching theme of the Christian life is to glorify the triune God in everything.  This means that our aim in growing in grace is not so that we can feel happier or more fulfilled or more significant.  Rather, our lives should exalt Christ, so that through us others may see how great He truly is.”

I believe this is the only New Testament doxology unquestionably addressed to Jesus Christ.   Glory refers to His power, majesty and splendor.  To give glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is to acknowledge that He is God because Isaiah 42:8 says: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.”  We’re to give Him glory right now because that’s what we’ll be doing in eternity.  The word “Amen” means, “so be it” or “let it be so.”  To say Amen is to declare that what has been said is solidly and completely true.  To pull this passage together we could say it like this: When you grow, God gets all the glory.  If you want to give God glory, then be committed to your spiritual growth.

Randy, the painter, often thinned his paint to make it go further.  A church decided to hire him to do some painting outside because he gave the lowest bid.  Sure enough, he bought the paint and thinned it out with turpentine.  Everything went well until it started raining and the thinned paint ran right off the building.  As he watched this happen, he got all worked up and fell from the scaffolding to the ground.  With thunder booming and lightning piercing the air, he was convicted of his sin and knew God was judging Him.  Looking up, he raised his voice to the heavens and cried out, “Oh, God, forgive me; what should I do?”  And from above, a mighty voice roared: “Repaint!  Repaint!  And thin no more!”

Friends, God doesn’t want us to just paint over our problems by trying to make them look pretty.  It’s time for us to repent, repent and sin no more! Let’s not water down God’s Word.  What He says, we believe.  What He commands, we will do.

  • Be diligent to show
  • Be discerning to know
  • Be disciplined to grow

Avoiding a  Slump

A couple years ago I read an article by Erik Reed entitled, “5 Reminders for Avoiding Summer Slumps.”  As a pastor he has seen attendance drop, giving dip, serving suffer and momentum halt during the summer months.  As a way to combat this, he reminded his people of five truths:

1. Lost people still perish eternally in the summer.

2. The Holy Spirit still regenerates sinners in the summer.

3. People can still grow spiritually and be discipled in the summer.

4. We all still need community in the summer.

5. Jesus is still worthy of our praise and worship in the summer.

I like how he ends his post: “God doesn’t take summers off in His plan to redeem His people, neither should we.  May Christ be exalted in our churches this summer!  And may our people see the dog days of summer as a time for continued spiritual growth.”

Let’s flesh this out personally using our 4G’s.

  • Gather.  Make every effort to not miss a service.  If you’re out of town, make sure to gather with God’s people in another Bible-preaching church and then watch, listen, or read our sermons online.
  • Grow.  There’s no way to grow if you’re not reading and studying the Scriptures.  If you’re not in a community group, decide today to plug in.
  • Give.  Are you giving back to God what He has given to you?  Look for ways to serve this summer.  Keep giving even if you’re gone.  
  • Go.  Summer is a great time to spend connecting with your neighbors.  

Painting always makes things look better…at least on the surface.  But it’s not enough to just make the outside look better.  Real change must take place on the inside.  And it won’t happen unless we are hungry for it.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?