22 Aug 2021


By Consciously Remembering the Coming of That Day

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: By Consciously Remembering the Coming of That Day
Scripture Text: 2 Peter 3:1-10

1. Remember the Good News

2. Reject the Fake News

3. Repent this day before That Day

Reflection Questions:

  • What in your daily life often distracts you from consciously remembering the gospel? 
  • What fake news might you have unconsciously believed in, which keeps you from focusing on that day? 
  • Taking Susanna Wesley’s definition of sin, what might you need to repent of today before that day?
Scripture: 2 Peter 3:1-10 (ESV)

1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

transcript

Introduction

Imagine you’re a devil. A minion of hell. You should up for work, dressed to impress, and your mission, which you must choose to accept, is to derail a Christian. You have been assigned to a Christian, you know, someone who Peter would describe in chapter 2 as has having “known the way of righteousness” someone who has received “the holy commandment”.

You are assigned to such a person, which you call a “patient”, and your job is to lure him away from the faith. To derail him from the straight and narrow path which leads to the kingdom. To deteriorate the quality of his relationship with Jesus. To diminish her capacity to seek first the kingdom. How would you do it?

That’s the premise of C.S. Lewis’ classic, “The Screwtape letters”. The book is a series of letters written from Screwtape, a senior-level demon, to his nephew Wormwood, an apprentice demon just starting out in the temptation business. Screwtape writes, exhorting and advising wormwood on how to go about derailing a Christian.

On one occassion, Wormwood was a challenging time with his patient. Because it was the month of December, the Christian season. And Wormwood was afraid that as Advent builds up towards Christmas, the patient would dwell upon the coming and significance of Christmas Day, and grow closer in his relationship with Jesus.

So Screwtape offers Wormwood some advice, he offer three suggestions, and I’ll just give you his opening one.

First, try keeping the patient sufficiently distracted. This is important, Wormwood, because the Enemy wants him to ponder and meditate on that awful truth (I shudder even to write it), the Incarnation. You must do all you can to prevent this from happening—and distraction is one of your deadliest weapons during these seasons. There are so many potential means for distraction that even you should find this task easy. So, keep him overly committed to all sorts of things (yes, even good things). Make sure he goes to every party and feels obligated to go out and purchase a gift for each one. Make sure he attends concerts and dinners and charity events. If his calendar isn’t full, you’ve failed. Exhaust him. Tire him out in any way you can. Keep him going and doing, and if that doesn’t work, distract him with entertainment and other mindless tricks. Just don’t give him time and space to consider what these seasons are actually meant to celebrate.

How do you get a Christian, who knows it’s Christmas, who is looking forward to Christmas, and yet at the same time, completely lose sight and miss the significance of Christmas Day?

You distract him. You distract him.

Elsewhere Screwtape writes:

You will find that anything or even nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do… You can make him do nothing at all for long periods.

This was written in a time before everyone of us has the internet in the palm of our hands, connecting us to a million websites, you can listen thousands of songs on loop, you can watch hundreds of shows on demand, you can shop from the global marketplace even now in your pews, you can play a bunch of mobile games at once, and I haven’t even mention what is perhaps the potent of them all: you can scroll mindlessly and endlessly on the handful of social media applications you are on.

Now, more than anyone time period in human history, it is easier for Wormwood to succeed in distracting his patients. You and I.

Let me ask: “How much of your time is spent doing nothing?” I don’t mean keeping the Sabbath. I mean the kind of pointless wasting of time spent staring at a screen, gaining absolutely nothing in the way of nurturing your soul. The kind of mindless consumption of banal entertainment which does so well to distract our God-given minds from thinking about the Gospel of the Kingdom and what it means for all of life.

Screwtape writes, “it does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick”.

You see, if the objective is to keep us from making every effort to develop godliness, what can be more effective than simply distract to make any effort at all?

We think of sinfulness as committing one of those big-ticket crimes: Alcoholism, Adultery, Murder, Theft, Domestic abuse, those sort of things.

But why work so hard to get good honest Christians like you and I to commit murder when keeping us glued to our screens is just as effective in keeping us from living Gospel centred lives?

What do you mean, Luwin? I tune in to service one Sunday, and all of a sudden Netflix is sinful? Instagram is sinful? What kind of fundamentalist, bible thumping, radical ideology is this? So listen, I’m not saying that, I’m not saying these things are sins, I’m saying it could be sin to you.

When John Wesley, was 22yrs old, his mother Suzanna wrote him a letter and in it she defined sin for him.

“Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”

It other words, just like an innocent air bubble that enters your bloodstream, and wreaks havoc on your system, sin can take the form of innocent activities that are nonetheless insidious to your soul, because it causes us to forget the live-giving truth of the gospel.

God doesn’t always work in spectacular ways, and neither does the devil. He can be subtle.

As Screwtape concludes, “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

I believe that in the age of the internet, where deceptions and distractions are literally at our fingertips, the call to remember the Kingdom is far more relevant, urgent and critical today than we can imagine.

And with that in mind, let’s hear what scripture has to say

1. Remember the Good News

1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.
In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder
that you should remember
the predictions of the holy prophets and
the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing
following their own sinful desires.

True to his word, we see Peter making every effort to remind the church of the truth. He writes to them twice, and both times, he’s “stirring up their mind by way of reminder”. Why? So that “they should remember”.

As a pastor, a shepherd of the church, he sees it as vital function of his ministry to play the role of an alarm clock, a pop-up notification, a reminding function, because forgetting can be disastrous.

So in these opening verses of chapter 3, we see that Peter making every effort to remind the church, as he said he would. We’ll see two further things.

(1) What he wants us to remember; and
(2) Why he wants us to remember.

What he wants us to remember

He wants us to remember

the predictions of the holy prophets and
the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

He makes reference to the two sources of truth which he referred to in chapter 1. The NT apostles who witnessed the Transfiguration, and the OT prophets who spoke of Christ and his coming kingdom, to which the Transfiguration pointed.

So this verse echoes of 1:19, where Peter calls us to pay attention to “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” and 2:21, where he describes the NT Christians as those who have had “the holy commandment delivered to them.”

Which means what Peter wants us to remember is something he has been talking about before in this letter. He isn’t introducing anything new.

The prediction of the holy prophets and the commandment of Christ through his apostles would refer to the good news of the coming kingdom.

Which is precisely how the Gospels speak of the Gospel.

Matthew 3:17. From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:23. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Mark 1:14-15. Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Luke 4:43. but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.

What Peter wants us to remember the gospel of the kingdom. The good news that the kingdom will come in its fullness when the King returns in power and glory.

But why is the good news of the kingdom called a commandment? Because it is news to be obeyed. It’s news of a king who is Lord of all, to whom we offer worship, before whom we must bow the knee, whose righteous will we must obey.

Remember the good news of the coming king and his kingdom.

Remember that the reason why the kingdom of God is good news is because this corrupt world in which we live is bad news. Remember that God’s holiness is incompatible with human sinfulness. Remember that God will rescue the godly but judge the ungodly.

Remember the good news that through knowing Jesus Christ, we have been given a divine nature and all we need in order to be godly. Remember that we must nonetheless we must make every effort to develop godliness in our lives on this day, so that there may be richly provided for us an entrance into the eternal kingdom of Christ our Lord on that Day.

Remember the good news of the kingdom.

That is what Peter wants us to remember. But why does he want us to remember that?

Because of the scoffers.

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing
following their own sinful desires.

The word scoffer is someone who mocks the truth, who ridicules the truth. And by that Peter means the false teachers, who makes up cleverly devised myths, to keep our eyes away from the coming of that day.

Let’s hear what these scoffers say.

2.Reject the Fake News.

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

So three devils were discussing the best lie to use to lure Christians away from the kingdom. And the first one said, “I know, let’s tell the Christians that there is no God. That belief in God is a delusion.” The others said, “Well, that’s hardly going to work will it?” I mean these Christians have a whole branch of teaching called apologetics to defend the reasonableness of their beliefs. How many success cases have you known, of Christians being argued out of the faith?”.

Okay, what do you suggest? The second devil said, “Let’s tell them that there is God, but there is no such thing as Judgement. There is no Hell. God is love and a loving God will never send anybody to hell. So they don’t have to worry about evangelising and obeying his will and all of that. That way they’re ours.

The other devils said, “Come on. No such thing as judgement day. Are you hoping they never read their bibles at all? It’s infuriating how many times that bible talks about heaven and hell. I mean, do you not know that they devoted an entire book at the end talking about it?” It’s not going to fly.

The third devil pondered all these things and finally said, “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to tell them that God is real, and there is a Judgment Day. But not yet. So long as judgement day is always a day away, there is also tomorrow to repent, there is tomorrow to “really be committed”, there is always tomorrow to finally read their bibles, to finally serve in Church, to finally pluck up the courage to evangelise their neighbours. properly.

There is a God, He will return, but not yet.

It is a similar thing to what these scoffers are saying: “Relax man. Yea, yea, yea, I know he promised to come back. Yes, yes, we read the same scriptures you realise. But some things you can’t take so literally. I mean, take a look around you, as far as we can tell, there is absolutely no sign that he will return.”

For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

There is no such thing as Jesus returning. It’s been what? 30-40 years since he said he will come back? He hasn’t right? And consider this, his return is supposed to do what? Usher in the “new heavens and new earth?” Overturn the cosmos and renew creation? Do you really think that’s going to happen? As creation began, creation has continued. There is no historical indication that the world will be remade, and there is no present sign of his coming. There is no need to concern ourselves with That Day.

Here is Peter’s reply:

For they deliberately overlook this fact,
that the heavens existed long ago,
and the earth was formed out of water and through water 
by the word of God, 
and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 
But by the same word 
the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire,
being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Now I want to say something about the word “overlook”. The Greek word used here can just as well be translated “forget”. It shares the same root word with as 1:9, when Peter says:

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Indeed translations like NIV and NKJV do translate this verse as “they deliberately forget”. Which I think is better way to phrase it given the importance that Peter places on the theme of “remembering” in this letter.

They deliberately forget the account of Noah and the flood. The cataclysmic flood of Noah story bears evidence to the fact that God is very capable of upheaving creation in order to rescue the righteous and to destroy the wicked.

Peter used the very example of Noah in chapter 2:5 to reinforce the point. The scoffers deliberately forget, by refusing to remember inconvenient truths, that “creation did not continue as they were from the beginning”.

You see, the narrative of Noah’s flood* is portrayed as a re-creation of the world. teaches us that God is able and willing to overturn creation, and remake creation, because he wants to destroy world corrupted by sin, and to usher in a kingdom of righteousness. Where Noah failed, Jesus will succeed. But the point is this: Like flat earthers who deliberately blind themselves to the evidence, the scoffers are wrong. “Creation did not continue as they were from the beginning”. Noah’s flood is proof of that.

God has acted before to destroy a sinful world in order to renew it in righteousness. He did before, he’ll do it again.

So remember the good news of the Kingdom and reject the fake news that Jesus will not move heaven and earth to finally establish it. He will do it, on That Day.

So, where does that leave us?

3.Repent This Day before That Day.

The scoffers messed up their faith and their fate by forgetting one fact.

Let us not follow in their footsteps by forgetting this fact.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you, 
not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance

Peter says, Jesus isn’t late. He isn’t slow either. Time doesn’t apply to him the way it applies to us.

In fact, you know what, instead of assuming we’re waiting for him to return. Consider this: It is not we, who are waiting for him. He is waiting for us.

You see, he has promised,

John 6:39. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Jesus is not slow. He is waiting for all whom the father has given him to come to him in repentance and faith. He is determined that none of the elect shall perish.

So rather than complaining that he’s taking too long, we should be counting the patience of our Lord as salvation. Because each day he waits represents one more opportunity to repent this day before that day.

But the length and this window of opportunity is not known to us. So count the patience of the Lord as salvation but do not count on his patience. When it ends, we do not know.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a roar,
and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved,
and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Jesus will come and when he comes every sinful thing will perish every sinful act will be exposed. Unlike Adam and Eve, there will be no hiding behind the trees. There will be no more trees. You will be utter exposed, and only covering on that day will be precious blood of Christ. Are you ready for that day? Are you prepared to face that day, today?

Don’t buy into the lie that: “There is a God, He will return, but not yet.” Don’t believe the fake news that there’s always going to be tomorrow.

No the day of the Lord will not come announced. It will come like a thief. In other words it could be tomorrow, or it could be tonight. You wouldn’t know. Don’t count on tomorrow.

Don’t count on tomorrow to start following Jesus. Don’t count on tomorrow to impress the gospel upon your children. Don’t count on tomorrow to quit pornography. Don’t count on tomorrow to finally commit to loving the bride of Christ. Don’t count on tomorrow to repent and believe. Repent and believe this day before that day. 

Hear the word of the Lord in Hebrews 4:6-7. Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

We have received the good news of the kingdom. And it remains for us to enter it. And the way in is to know Christ, and make every effort to be like Christ. For, as the scripture says, “in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” When shall we start living this way? Will we start today?

Friends, the reality is that none of us can guarantee that Jesus Christ won’t actually return right here, right now. To live like there’s always tomorrow is to buy into lie of the scoffer. Whatever must be done, do it today. Repent today, believe today, make every effort beginning today. Remember to live this day ever conscious of that day.

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