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Right Expectations Create Right Preparations

April 11, 2021 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: 2 Peter

Topic: Expository Passage: 2 Peter 3:14-16

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Introduction

(Read vv. 10–18) Whenever you pack for a trip, it’s always wise to check the weather, right? That’s because in most places, the weather can really vary from week to week and sometimes day to day. And if you pack for 70-80°, but it’s 50° every day, you’re going to be cold and frustrated. The same is true if you pack for cold weather, but a heat wave comes through. Again, it’s annoying and uncomfortable when you don’t have the right clothes for the weather ahead.

My point is that preparations are only valuable if you make the right ones. You can spend hours packing for a ski trip, but if you are going to the beach, all that preparation is worthless, and you’re going to look pretty ridiculous.

Along those lines, 2 Peter 3 teaches that my expectations for the future drastically affect how I prepare. God promises that Jesus is coming to judge, and this expectation must drive me to live a godly life today, shaped by eternal values, not temporal ones.

Remember, that the reason Peter emphasizes these things is because the false teachers had the wrong expectation. They didn’t think Christ was coming to judge, and this led to the wrong preparations. As a result, they will be severely disappointed, when they stand before the Lord wrongly prepared.

Today, we are going to look at the conclusion to this discussion in vv. 14–16. Peter begins with two commands regarding how to rightly prepare for the coming of Christ. Then he closes by lamenting how the false teachers had twisted Scripture, creating wrong expectations for the future, leading to tragic choices in how to prepare. So, this text includes a very important warning and two encouraging commands. The 1st command is…

I.  Diligently prepare for the judgment (v. 14).

Again, 2 Peter 3 adamantly affirms the promise that Jesus will return to judge (v. 10). Because this world is headed to destruction, our hope is not in this world but in the next (v. 13).

Notice how Peter builds on this in v. 14. In other words, since my hope is in eternity, I must “look forward” to Christ’s return, and then I must give myself to preparing for the day that I see Christ.

That’s what Peter means, when he talks about “being found by Him.” When Christ returns and I stand before him to be judged, I want him to find me ready. Therefore, God commands us to diligently prepare for that meeting. I need to give all my energy and focus to preparing to meet Christ. Specifically, I want Christ to find me in 2 conditions. First…

At Peace with God: Peter says, we want Christ to find us “in peace.” It’s true that NT peace can be several things. It can be a peaceful heart that is absent of worry. The NT also talks a lot about peaceful relationships with other people.

But since v. 14 is concerned with preparing for the judgment, the point is that we must make sure that we are at peace with God, not under his wrath before he judges us.

This is an important admonition, because all of us are born into the world in rebellion against God’s law and alienated from him. Colossians 1:21–22 reminds Christians, “And you, who once were alienated (from God) and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” Apart from Christ, we are alienated from God and under his wrath. God says we are his “enemies.”

However, we can be reconciled to God through Christ. The text adds, “Yet now He has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless in His sight.” Through his death on the cross, Jesus took the punishment for our sin so that we could be reconciled or restored to a right relationship with God.

Therefore, Peter urges us to make sure we have received this reconciliation before we stand at the judgment. You don’t want to stand before God as his enemy. No, you want to be found by Christ “in peace (with God).”

If there is anyone here who has not received this reconciliation through faith in the finished work of Christ, we’d love to talk with you today about how you can enjoy peace with God. It’s not based on anything in you, but solely based on what Jesus has done.

Please make sure you are at peace with God. Don’t neglect your preparation to meet the Lord; instead, “be diligent to be found by Him in peace.” 2nd, I want Christ to find me…

Holy and Blameless: God commands us to, “Be diligent…” Both of these terms have deep roots in Israel’s sacrificial system. God only allowed Israel to sacrifice animals that were “without spot and blemish.”

And the NT often uses this language as a picture of godly character. 1 Peter 1:18 describes Christ as “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 2 Peter 2:13 uses the terms negatively of the false teachers. They are “spots and blemishes” based on their wicked lifestyles.

Therefore, v. 14 commands us to prepare for the judgment by diligently working to be found as holy as possible.

Of course, there’s no way we will reach true perfection this side of glory. In fact, one of the ironies of spiritual growth is that the further you go, the more aware you become of your own sin. So, if you are diligently pursuing godliness, you probably don’t feel very spotless or blameless.

Therefore, it’s good for us to occasionally remember how far we have come. Be encouraged by God’s gracious work. But don’t rest on your laurels either. No, God commands us to diligently continue working to reflect more and more of God’s holiness.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). I shouldn’t be content to tolerate sinful patterns or practices. I shouldn’t excuse anything that God condemns.

No, by God’s grace, diligently work to wash every ounce of filth from your heart and to replace it with holiness. And do so with an eye toward the day when you give an account of your life to the Lord. Prepare well, so that by God’s grace, you can stand before him in holiness and so that it’s not a day of shame and regret but of joy and rejoicing. Peter’s 2nd command is…

II.  Think rightly about the delay (v. 15a).

This command responds to the feeling of anxiety among some of Peter’s readers about the fact that Jesus didn’t return as soon as they expected. Again, the false teachers claimed that if Jesus were really coming back, he would have come by now, so he must not be coming at all.

Peter already answered this charge in vv. 8–10, and now he returns to it and especially to the idea in v. 9 that one reason Christ delays his return is because he is not done saving sinners (read).

And v. 14 states again that we shouldn’t see Christ’s delay as a sign of laziness or apathy; instead, God is patient because he desires “salvation.” He wants as many people as possible to be ready for the judgment. There are two important applications that Peter means for us to take from this command.

Reach the lost. In other words, while we are “looking forward to these things,” we shouldn’t sit our hands doing nothing. No, if Christ delays his return for the salvation of sinners, I need to be busy doing all that I can to reach as many people as possible.

Folks, God didn’t give you another day on the earth merely so that you could check some more things off your to-do list and have a good time. No, one of the fundamental reasons God gave you this day is so that you could glorify the Lord by being a gospel witness. Every day that Christ delays is a reminder of his passion for the lost and a challenge to embrace his vision.

What are you doing for the Great Commission? Who has God put in your life whom you can tell that Jesus saves? What can you be doing to create more gospel opportunities? Let’s be intentional and busy using our days of waiting for Christ’s return, to reach sinners for Christ. The 2nd application…

Develop spiritual fruit. When we look at v. 15, this application probably doesn’t jump out, because when we talk about getting saved, we think of the moment I am born again. At times this is exactly what salvation means.

But the NT also commonly uses salvation terminology to refer to God’s entire work in his children, beginning with conversion, but then including spiritual growth, perseverance, and ultimately glorification. It teaches that I won’t be fully saved until I am glorified.

So, while I am justified by grace alone, I must prepare for my final salvation by staying anchored to the fundamental truths of Scripture and by growing into the image of Christ. This has been an important them in 2 Peter (1:5, 10). And it will pop up again in 3:17.

So, again, we don’t prepare Christ’ return by sitting on a park bench, staring at the clouds. No, we should see every day that Christ waits, as another day for me to pursue salvation, to take another step toward becoming like Christ and to do good works that glorify him.

In sum, v. 15 commands us to think rightly about Christ’s delayed return. I must aggressively use the days God has given us to become like my Savior and to fulfill his gospel mission. Embrace that perspective this week and every day the Lord gives you. Then, Peter supports his commands with a very significant about Paul’s letters and about interpreting Scripture. The primary challenge for us in this statement is…

II.  Interpret Scripture carefully (vv. 15b–16).

This is one of the most important statements in Scripture about the inspiration of the NT and about how the early church saw and used the NT books. And in this context, it helps us understand how the false teachers justified some of their awful claims. I’d like to summarize what these verses teach with 5 implications...

The apostles were unified in their message. Peter’s main concern is in v. 16, where he says that the false teachers were “twisting” Paul’s letters to fit their agenda. Peter doesn’t tell us how they were doing so, but most likely they were twisting Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith to mean that we are no longer obligated to obey God’s commands.

They took Paul’s doctrine that we are under grace, not the Mosaic Law, to mean that we are under no law at all. So, when Peter said that we must live godly lives, they used Paul their “apostolic justification” for their ungodly lifestyles. They tried to pit Peter and Paul against each other.

And remember that Peter and Paul once had a very public disagreement regarding the Law. Galatians 2 tells how Paul publicly confronted Peter at Antioch over his hypocritical behavior. Quite possibly, the false teachers used this to argue that Peter and Paul were not on the same page.

Sadly, liberal scholars make the same kind of arguments today. They don’t believe that the Bible is ultimately the work of God, and the human authors were just making it up as they went. Therefore, we should expect conflicting theology among the biblical authors.

But here we have one of the founding apostles of the church soundly denying this charge. In fact, notice how highly Peter speaks of the man who called him out in Antioch. He calls him “our beloved brother” who has received wisdom from God.

Peter didn’t see Paul as a rival. He wasn’t bitter about what happened in Antioch. No, he respected Paul. He had learned from Paul, and he states that Paul wrote under God’s authority and wisdom.

So, Peter states very clearly that he and Paul were brothers, who preached the same message. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their own styles or their own emphases. But their theology was the same, because God’s Spirit ultimately directed and inspired them.

As a result, the book you hold in your hands is on the one hand incredibly diverse. The various authors bring their own flavor and perspective to Scripture adding contour and life to Scripture. But on the other hand, God is the author of all that it says, and he gives the Bible supernatural unity despite the fact that it was written over 1500 years by a wide variety of authors. It is a precious treasure that teaches a single theology.

The apostles wrote Scripture. You might think that’s the biggest “duh” statement of all time. What else did they write? It’s significant, because people who believe that the Bible is a purely human book often argue that the apostles didn’t really set out to write Scripture.

They were just writing letters that communicated their opinions. However, years later, even decades after they died, the church started gathering their books together and claiming they were inspired.

But Peter rejects this idea with 2 statements. First, he says that Paul wrote “according to the wisdom given to him.” In other words, Peter believed that God was the source of Paul’s theology and that God directed Paul to write. Peter assumed that Paul’s letters were inspired by God.

As a result, notice the last statement in v. 16. The term translated “Scriptures” is used 50 times in the NT, and it always describes the Bible, specifically the OT. So, Peter is about as clear as he can be. He saw Paul’s letters are equal with “the rest of the Scriptures.”

Therefore, Peter says very clearly that the apostles understood that they were writing Scripture. They worked carefully under the inspiration of the Spirit to write books that were accurate, authoritative, timeless, and applicable. Again, this is God’s Word.

The church embraced the NT as Scripture. Something else that is fascinating about this passage is that Peter assumes wide distribution and familiarity with Paul’s letters. Peter indicates that he was very familiar with Paul’s letters and that his readers were too.

That’s significant, because we might assume that when the Philippians, for example, received Philippians, they just kept it to themselves for a long time. No one else really knew about it, and maybe it was corrupted before it began to spread. Or maybe Paul didn’t really write it.

But think about the fact that Peter is writing during Paul’s lifetime. All of his letters are only a few years old. And Peter didn’t have email or even snail mail. But v. 16 is pretty clear that Peter had widely read Paul’s epistles and that his readers had too.

In other words, the early church copied and distributed these letters almost immediately. BTW, that makes it far more difficult to introduce changes. If a scribe has a bad agenda and wants to tweak Galatians, it’s not that hard if there are only 2 copies circulating. But once there are 30-40 of them circulating, it’s nearly impossible, and it would show up in the manuscripts. This tells us that God’s Word has been accurately preserved.

And the church carefully preserved and widely distributed the NT, because everyone assumed it Scripture. Notice that Peter doesn’t sense any need to defend his claim at the end of v. 16 that Paul’s letters are Scripture. He say it in passing, because it was not debatable. We should be confident that this is God’s Word and that it has been accurately preserved for us.

Scripture is sometimes difficult to understand. Have you ever been discouraged or felt overwhelmed reading through certain portions of the Bible? I know I have. You’re staring at a section of Romans, a prophecy about the end times, or a hard saying of Jesus, and you feel utterly confused.

It’s disheartening, and sometimes we begin to believe that I must be a spiritual failure who will never understand the Bible. Well, when you feel that way, remember what Peter had those moments too.

This is the Apostle Peter, the primary apostle in the church’s early years. He says, “Guys, I scratch my head sometimes when I read Paul’s letters.” Wow!

Isn’t it fascinating that Peter admits that he was still learning from Paul and that some of what Paul wrote was so deep that it took Peter a while to digest it all? You’re not the only one who struggles to understand Scripture.

Don’t get discouraged when studying the Bible is hard. It was difficult for Peter, and it will be difficult for us too. Remember that interpreting Scripture is like most skills—the more you practice, the better you get. The more you read the Bible, the more you grow a framework to understand it.

Then believe that understanding is worth the effort. God spoke to us in this book. So, keep working to understand what God said to you.

Missing the major themes of Scripture is deadly. Now, we circle back to Peter’s primary concern in context. Notice the warning in v. 16, “Which untaught…” Again, the most likely background is that the false teachers twisted Paul’s statements about justification by faith alone and freedom from the Mosaic Law to mean that we don’t need to live holy lives.

BTW, this wasn’t because Paul wasn’t clear. Peter didn’t have any question that Paul pushed holiness and rightly preparing for the judgment. The central message of Scripture is always clear. But the false teachers had an agenda, so they pulled certain statements out of context, and willfully twisted them to say what they wanted them to say.

Therefore, because they had no expectation of a future judgment, they didn’t prepare to be found by the Lord “in peace, without spot and blameless.” To return to my opening illustration, they made the wrong preparations, because they had the wrong expectation.

And v. 16 warns that the end result will be “their own destruction,” meaning eternal condemnation. That’s heavy stuff. And it all comes back to the fact that they didn’t come to Scripture with a sincere desire to hear what God had said and to submit their hearts to it. As 1:20 states, they came up with their own “private interpretations,” instead of the true interpretation.

Let’s all make sure that we are not guilty of the same mistake. Revere God’s Word, and read Scripture in context, seeking God’s intent.

Conclusion

In conclusion, right expectations lead to right preparations. You must think rightly about the future if you are going to rightly prepare today. So, interpret Scripture carefully and then look forward to the day that Christ returns. Diligently prepare for the coming judgment by making sure that you are saved and pursuing holiness. And use the days God gives to reach the lost with the hope of the gospel.

More in 2 Peter

April 18, 2021

Growing in Grace

March 21, 2021

Eschatological Perspective for Life Today

March 14, 2021

What’s Taking So Long?