Study 10 THE KIND OF PEOPLE WE OUGHT TO BE
What Every Christian Should Know
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 2 Peter 3: 1-18)
Jesus is coming again! Belief in the truth of the second coming of our Lord is urged in the New Testament as a present incentive to holiness of life and whole-heartedness in service. If we believe Christ is coming again, this belief must affect our behaviour - look up the following and notice that the truth of our Lord’s return is linked with the question of conduct and service: Luke 12:43; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 1:10; Colossians 3:2-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:11-13; James 5:7-8; 1 John 2:28; 3:2. Now notice the argument the apostle uses in 2 Peter 3:11, and study the following comments by that old-time expositor, Albert Barnes, who wrote:-
- ‘The fact of the imminent return of Christ ought to be allowed to exert a deep and abiding influence on us, to induce us to lead holy lives. We should feel that there is nothing permanent on this earth; that this is not our abiding home, and that our great interests are in another world. We should be serious, humble and prayerful, and should make it our great object to be prepared for the solemn scenes through which we are soon to pass. A habitual contemplation of the truth that all we see is soon to pass away would produce a most salutary effect on the mind. It would make us serious. It would lead us not to desire to accumulate what must so soon be destroyed. It would prompt us to lay up our treasures in Heaven. It would cause us to ask with deep earnestness whether we are prepared for these amazing scenes should they suddenly burst upon us.’
In 2 Peter 3, there are five characteristics of the Christian in whose life the truth of Christ’s return is a practical hope.
1. IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN SOON, WE SHALL SEEK TO LIVE LIVES THAT ARE CHRIST-LIKE, HOLY, BLAMELESS AND GOD-GLORIFYING.
Study verses 11 and 14 and ask yourself: ‘What would my immediate reaction be if I were suddenly told that the Lord was coming in two hours’ time?’ Many Christians, on receiving such a message, would need every bit of two hours to prepare for His coming. Apologies would have to be made - look up Matthew 5:23-24; debts would have to be paid - look up Romans 13:8; books would have to be burnt - look up Acts 19:19; loved ones would have to be warned – look up Genesis 19:14; cheques would have to be written - look up Malachi 3:8; confessions would have to be made - look up Matthew 18:15-16, etc. etc.! Well, the fact is He is coming - and He may come soon - and the practical effect of this truth should be an incentive to holy living. If we are expecting Him to come we shall desire to be found of Him ‘spotless’ and ‘blameless’ (verse 14) - look up Colossians 3:2-5; 1 John 2:28.
2. IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN SOON, WE SHALL BE FAR MORE INTERESTED IN THE WORLD TO COME THAN IN THIS WORLD.
Study verse 13 carefully. That does not mean that we as Christians are not to be interested in the improvement of social conditions etc. As a matter of fact, most of the great institutions existing today for the amelioration of suffering, the care of the poor, the abolition of bad living conditions, etc., were initiated by Christians - e.g. Lord Shaftesbury, Dr Barnardo, Elizabeth Fry. We have a definite contribution to make to the society of which we form a part. We are to shine as lights - look up Matthew 5:16; and to be as salt - look up Matthew 5:13, exercising a purifying influence in the community in which we live. But, this world is not our home; we are only pilgrims passing through on our way to Heaven. We are citizens of Heaven - look up Philippians 3:20. We are not pessimists because we believe that this poor old world is doomed, but we are optimists, for we also ‘look for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.’ So, we cannot afford to be ‘worldly’ Christians, living in bondage to the sins and follies of this world - look up Matthew 6:19-20; Titus 2:12-13; 1 John 2:15-17.
3. IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN SOON, WE SHALL BE DEEPLY CONCERNED FOR THE SALVATION OF THOSE WHO ARE NOT READY TO MEET HIM.
Verses 9 and 15 remind us of the Lord’s wonderful compassion towards those who are perishing (John 3:16), and we who are His servants should share His deep concern for the salvation of men and women. The signs of the times tell us that the coming of the Lord is very near (James 5:8). How wonderful it will be for us when He comes! - but how solemn for those who are not ready to meet Him, and to whom He will say - Luke 13:27! Let us buy up every opportunity of bringing the gospel to those whose need is so desperate - look up John 4:35.
4. IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN SOON WE SHALL BE STEADFAST IN THE MIDST OF WORSENING CONDITIONS IN THE WORLD.
Verse 17 tells us this. Of course we must expect conditions in the world to get worse; but a world that has rejected God and His Son, and that has spurned the divine remedy for sin and every malady of man, can never get better apart from divine intervention. It is in this desperately sin-stricken world that you and I, who love the Lord, are to find encouragement, hope and inspiration in the calm assurance that our Sovereign Lord, who is on the throne, will shortly step down and put all wrongs right. To know God and to know the mystery of His intention for the coming days - this is the secret of assurance and peace (Isaiah 26:3).
5. IF WE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN SOON WE SHALL DESIRE ABOVE ALL ELSE TO GROW IN GRACE AND IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM.
This is what verse 18 suggests. Do you know Him as your Saviour, Friend and Lord? If you do know Him, how much do you know Him? - look up John 14:9. Do you share Paul’s ambition? - look up Philippians 3:10. The way to grow in grace and to know Him better is to be much alone with Him in prayer (Matthew 6:6), and to meditate upon His Word (Psalm 119:97).
Let us pray that the daily anticipation of our Lord’s sure return will inspire us to live lives that are well-pleasing to Him, to live in the light of eternity, to reach out for the salvation of others, to be quiet and confident in the midst of international confusion and chaos, and above all, to know Him whom to know is life eternal.