We started this theme of waiting last week. In the Old Testament, there are many passages expressing the heart of those waiting for God to send his salvation, his Messiah. Psalm 85 gives us a picture of the waiting heart:
Psalm 85: 1 You showed favor to your land, O Lord; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. Selah ...7 Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. For this Psalmist, even though God had restored the fortunes of Jacob, there was more to be done. He is still seeking God’s salvation. And when that salvation comes, the Psalmist says:
8 I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints-- but let them not return to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land... 13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
The Psalmist gives us this theme of preparing the way for the Lord. He says that Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps. This theme of preparing the way for the Lord is picked up in Isaiah 40, the chapter we studied last week, it says: 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
There was groundwork that had to be done before Christ could come the first time. Things had to be in place, which is why Galatians 4:4 tells us that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” The earth had to be ready; the people had to be ready. God moved everything into place and then at the right time, God sent his Son into the world. John the Baptist played a role in preparing the way for Christ. Mark tells us in the very first lines of his gospel:
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- 3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.... 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew and Luke say “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”)
John came telling people that they needed to repent of their sins and be baptized with water, but he pointed at the one who would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit. John was preparing the way. The Psalmist says that Righteousness goes before God’s salvation and prepares the way for his steps. Repentance and righteousness. These are the things that go before and pave the way for the work that God wants to do in each one of us. Now, all of that was just background for the text that I want to dig into this morning.
2 Peter 3:1-18
Peter is telling these dear brothers and sisters that just as the Prophets looked forward to Jesus coming the first time, to bring salvation, so we are also looking forward to Jesus coming again. The New Testament writers all tell us that there will be a day when Christ will return and judge the earth. Jesus said himself that there would be a day when people would be divided as sheep and goats before him. Those who he knew, those that did the will of his father, were on his right and entered into his rest. Those that he did not know, those that did not do the will of his father, even if they did all kinds of things that looked holy; they went on his left and entered into judgment.
Peter tells his readers that there will be people who will scoff at this teaching and ask “What’s God waiting for? Where is this ‘coming’ he was talking about?” Sound familiar? There are lots of people today who would profess to be Christians and yet don’t believe that Christ is coming again. Many of those people find setting aside that teaching allows them to live however they please. Peter says it is to follow their own evil desires. It makes sense, if you want to live your life according to your own evil lusts; it is very convenient to think that Jesus is not ever coming back. Without fear of judgment, the last barrier is taken away to keep us from destroying ourselves in our pursuit of evil. This is not the first barrier, nor is it the reason why we should serve God or live holy lives, the first reason is love. Once you pass that first reason up and are looking for excuses to do what you please, the last barrier is judgment. The problem with this outlook is that Jesus did indeed say he was coming back, and he did not give a timeline. He said that even the Son and the angels do not know the day or hour. Only God knows when everything will be in place for Christ to come again.
And why is he waiting? He wants everyone to be saved. His patience means salvation for those who hear and believe while he holds back his judgment. He is not delaying so we can party; he is delaying so we can tell more people about Christ. He is delaying so that we can grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So my question for each of us this morning is “What are you waiting for?” We have a tradition of doing New Year’s resolutions. But I don’t want us to wait until New Year’s to do our part in making a path for God to work in our lives. Repentance and Righteousness. Peter says since we are looking forward to his coming we ought to make every effort to be spotless, blameless and at peace with him. What are we waiting for? What will have to happen in our lives before we fully surrender to him? What will have to occur before we will accept his gift of salvation and let him work in our lives? How long will we put off repenting and living in step with the Spirit? How long will we wait to tell the people around us about the Good News of life in Christ?
We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to know exactly what God wants for us in the future. We don’t have to figure everything out. We just need to do what is in front of us right now. And what is here, in this moment is an opportunity to repent; an opportunity to give up what you have been holding onto; an opportunity to present yourself as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to him. I don’t want us to wait to do the things before us when there is no time to lose.
What are you waiting for?