Monday, December 17, 2012

Going Deeper for December 16, 2012

This week's question is timely.  "Why is it taking so long for Jesus to return?"

I am sure in the wake of the events of this past Friday in Newtown, CT more of us are asking that same question today.  During advent we traditionally look backward and forward.  We look back to imagine what it was like for God's people to await the coming of the Messiah, and we look forward as we realize that we too are waiting for Jesus to come back and make all things new.  So this is a particularly good question during advent.

In order to explore the dimensions of this question, I invite you to read 2 Peter 3:1-18.

(Read 2 Peter 3:1-18)

The first thing we notice as we read through this chapter is that our question is not new.  Even Peter's contemporaries (who lived within 50 years after Jesus died, rose, and ascended) were wondering the same thing.  So this question is an important one, and it comes out of the existential experiences of real life.

Peter's contemporaries were persecuted, and their friends mocked them because of their hope for Jesus' return (see verses 3-4), and I imagine they felt the same way we often do.  So what should we do?

The Bible tells us two things in particular about the timing of the end of all things.  First, "It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by His own authority." (Acts 1:7)  Second, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)

Now these might be less than satisfactory as answers, but it is all we can say because it is all God has said.  Therefore, the question we must ask is this: "If it is not for us to know when, then what is it for us to know?"

Well, Acts 1:8 answers Acts 1:7 by telling us: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be My witnesses from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
So our first response is to obey Jesus' call for us to be His witnesses.

And this is in line with Jesus' words in Matthew 24: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world ... and then the end will come."

This does not mean we can force God's hand, and move up the timeline by working for these things to happen, but it does mean these things (preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all nations) should be our priority.

But how?  How do we obey Jesus' call to be witnesses?

Peter answers that for us in 2 Peter 3.  While he talks about the end, and the Lord's patience (see verses 8-9), and a day being like a thousand years to God and a thousand years like a day, he also offers instruction on how we should live as Christ's followers as we wait for His return.

"I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking." (2 Peter 3:1)
"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live wholesome and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (11-12)
"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him." (verse 14)
"Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and forever!  Amen." (verses 17-18)

So you can see that Peter urges us to live godly and seek more of Jesus as we await His return, and as we do that, we will also see God transforming us into Jesus' likeness by the Holy Spirit's power so that we can become true witnesses in obedience to Jesus' call.

So what about you?  Do you have anything to add?  Please feel free to share your comments.  I know this is a significant question, and it certainly deserves our time and attention as together we listen for God's voice in the midst of the noise that so often surrounds us.  Thank you.

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