April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
We continue today in 2 Peter.
2 Peter 3:11-18 | Melanie Wright
Something to look forward to – motivation for a better life
Lets face it life can be pretty challenging at times! In order to keep on going, sometimes it helps to have something to look forward to – right? Wether it’s simply looking forward to our days off, getting something new or visiting friends and family. Having something to look forward to can move and motivate us, and encourage us to live better in the present.
So, how about in our relationship with God? What things are we looking forward to here? How can looking forward to something in our relationship with God, motivate us to live a better life now?
The passage that has inspired these questions is 2 Peter 3:11-18 (NIV).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. 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, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Here Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, is writing a pretty heavy letter to his fellow believers, about false teachers and wrong doers in the church. Peter, who was martyred during Nero’s reign, likely crucified upside down for his faith, probably wrote these letters between A.D 65 and 68. In just over thirty years since Jesus’ ascension and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, ‘the Helper’, the church was already facing some big problems.
So what sort of encouragement or instruction did Peter give to his fellow, first century believers and what encouragement and instruction can we gain from them today, almost 2000 years later?
In verse 11 Peter asks his readers a clarifying question “since everything will be destroyed…. what kind of people ought you to be?” Maybe we can ask ourselves the same question? Or we could modernise it a little and ask; since much more than ‘global warming’ is going to happen, ie verse 12 “the destruction of the heavens by fire and the elements will melt in the heat”, where should we put our energies? (Pardon the pun).
But seriously it deserves some more thought. The earth will be destroyed, all the houses, all our gardens, roads and infrastructure, our businesses and governments – will all one day be destroyed. So because we know this, what sort of people should we be?
Does it mean that we show no regard for our present lives, the environment and society, or that we never plant a tree? I don’t think so, but it does mean that as Christians we should have a different perspective on life. An awareness of the temporary nature of things; what is ultimately going to happen and what is ultimately important.
In verse 12, Peter answers his own question for the believers of his time and for us also, saying “you ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” In verse 14, Peter adds that we “should make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with” God. So in light of this, we can see that as believers, there is some effort, that’s right ‘work’, required to live a holy and godly life.
So what does a holy and godly life look like? In verse 16, Peter reveals that there were people who were doing the wrong thing by distorting “scriptures, to their own destruction”. So, I think its fair to say that part of being godly is putting effort into knowing and correctly handling scripture. In verse 17, Peter then addresses a type of erroneous teaching that was going around at the time and he warned the believers to : “be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” Another benefit of knowing the scriptures, is that it can protect us from becoming followers of people who distort the word of God.
So what was this error of the lawless that Peter writes about? Get ready for it – it appears that the false teaching was about a Christian faith without works. Some people were becoming idle and complacent in their faith and no longer hoping for or expecting the day of Christ’s return.
How about us? Have we heard any teaching that encourages Christian life without works? Or teaching that emphasises that Jesus has done it all; so now what do we do? Just sit back and enjoy? Or worse do nothing and feel like there is something more we are meant to be doing? In verse 18, Peter wrote the opposite, that we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. So the fuller message is that yes Jesus, has paid the full price for our sins on the cross and that if we believe in him, we are redeemed, saved, but then through him we have been given divine resources, that enable us to live a holy and godly life for him.
As mentioned, the other aspect of the false teaching was that Jesus was not coming back. That because he had not returned yet, it meant that he had changed his mind. But Peter reminded them that there was definitely going to be a second coming, the day of God; and that it hadn’t happened yet because God was delaying judgement day, wanting people to repent and be saved. And these truths still apply to us as believers today.
While we are putting in effort to live godly lives, proclaiming the gospel and doing the good works that God requires, we can do so, looking forward to the day of God. Motivated by the fact that there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” verse 13. In living right we also speed his return, verse 12 and knowing that Jesus our King is coming again gives us something to look forward to – motivation for a better life.