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A Don’t Forget That Sticks

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A Don’t Forget That Sticks


Ryan Ferguson


April 2, 2023


2 Peter, 2 Peter 3:8-13


Good morning, friends. Good morning to those of you who are joining us on YouTube or Facebook. So, I want to begin, perhaps in an odd way, to see if you would risk raising your hand in answer to a question. It’s not a hard question. I’d like to know if you’ve had a hard week. It doesn’t mean you’ve had the hardest week of your life or even the most difficult — things happen — but something about this week is hard. If you would, raise your hand and leave it up for one second, okay? Put it as high as you can. Now, brothers and sisters, look around. Okay. So, we’re going to pray for each other.

This has been a hard week for me. I dealt this week with almost losing my mom. And so, my wiring, for those of you who know me, is I went into business-go mode, took all the emotions, shoved them into a box that I put on my box shelf inside my heart, and I’ll deal with those at some point in the future. But I’m a little scattered this week. It’s kind of caught up with me. So, if I’ve had a hard week and you’ve had a hard week, maybe it’d be great if we just stopped and prayed for each other, okay?

So, I’m going to do that out loud. If there’s somebody around you that you feel comfortable praying over that raised their hand (that’s why I had you look around), you feel free. If there’s somebody around that you know in this second service [and] you know they’re having a hard week, you could pray for them while I talk out loud. But we’re just going to stop and pray because this week was hard for a lot of people, right? Okay. I’ll do that out loud.

Father of mercy and the God of all comfort, would you be in this place? God, thank you that, as a follower of Jesus, I don’t have to pretend like life is always great. It’s okay to stop and say, “Man, this week was hard, and I didn’t like it.” And so, for my brothers and sisters, literally hundreds of people who raised their hands in this room, I don’t have the capacity to know all about their hard week, but you do. Your eyes are toward the righteous, and your ears are open to their cry. So, literally, God Almighty, you are looking at all of these people who raise their hands. Would you encourage them where they are? Would you encourage me where I am? Would you help me today to speak well, to speak your words, to serve these people. Let my confused, emotional mind calm down for a half hour so I can serve these people that I love a lot. And God, this came to my mind. There’s hard and then there’s really, really, really hard. So, for those who are at the brink, right now, those who are on the edge, would you in a special way comfort them? And all God’s people are praying for each other together, and we all say “amen.”

So, I’m going to try something here. I’m going to try to use my mind-reading skills, my ability to predict human behavior. And I’m going to try to get everybody in this room to say the same three words at the exact same time out loud. In a moment. I want you to all together out loud, fill in this statement that’s going to be up on the screen, and I’m going to help you get there. You might have heard this practical advice from your parent. You might as a parent have given this very practical advice to your children right before they go to bed. Now, there’s a little bit of pressure on you. You need to say the right words, or this introduction is toast. So, don’t mess this up for me, all right? So, out loud, all together what’s a practical advice a parent gives right before their kid goes to bed? Don’t forget to ___ ___ ___. Ta da! Oh, “say your prayers”! Don’t Bible-juke all the rest of us! Come on! Oh, that’s great advice. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pro prayer. Brush your teeth! Don’t forget to brush your teeth.

“Don’t forget to brush your teeth” is a Don’t Forget that sticks. It’s been a long time since my mom and dad said, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth” … many, many a year, right? I’ve never forgotten it. And in some way, collectively and culturally, we all remember “don’t forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed.” It’s a Don’t Forget that sticks.

In 2 Peter 3, Peter has a Don’t Forget that absolutely must stick. The stakes are much higher than tooth decay and bad breath. 2 Peter 3:8. Peter says this,

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved”

Do not overlook. Don’t forget. Overlooking is the opposite of remembering, and Peter has been telling us this entire letter “remember.” Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. And notice this is a relational “don’t overlook.” Don’t overlook, beloved. Just like a parent says to his child, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth” with a good reason, with care, so Peter is looking at his readers and us saying, “Don’t forget, beloved.” So, what is Peter’s Don’t Forget that needs to stick? What is his fact that he talks about?

He tells us. “With the Lord …” (Don’t forget!)

“With the Lord a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

So again, just like parents — “don’t forget to brush your teeth,” Peter is saying, “Don’t forget, with the Lord a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day.” That’s his Don’t Forget that needs to stick. It’s a weird Don’t Forget, though, right? It kind of sounds weird. It sounds like poetry. Well, that’s because it is poetry. Peter’s actually reaching back to a poem, an ancient Hebrew poem, in this book called Psalms, and it’s Psalm 90. Psalm 90 is written by a guy named Moses. Moses is a guy that God called to lead Israel out of Egypt. And so, Moses wrote some poetry. And this is what he wrote in Psalm 90. So, let’s look at Psalm 90 and see if we can gain some information. Why does Peter go back and grab this statement as something you can’t forget? Psalm 90:1-4,

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as a yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

This is Peter’s source material, that last sentence. Now, Peter changes it a little bit. He paraphrases it. But why does he quote it? I want us to notice something about Psalm 90. I want us to see all of the “time” words, and they’re in bold. We’re going to put that same thing up again. We’re going to look at all of the “time” words — all generations, before, or ever, everlasting to everlasting, return man to dust, return, a thousand years, yesterday, past, a watch in the night.

[00:08:54] So, the beginning of Psalm 90 is all about God’s relationship with time. God, from Psalm 90, is a no-beginning, no-end, pre-creation, forever-and-ever God. God is a no-beginning, no-end, pre-creation, forever-and-ever God. So, God, when it comes to time, God established time for humanity, for us. He created the world, light and dark, orbits. God even determines the end of man. He returns man to dust. God is not hemmed in by time. The poem tells us that a thousand years is like Saturday. Today’s Sunday. Yesterday was Saturday. We all remember Saturday. It was yesterday. That’s a thousand years to God. That’s like a thousand years. A thousand years is like a watch in the night. Depending on what calendar you look at, that’s three to four hours late at night. To God, that’s what time means. Time is borderless to God.

So, when we return to Peter’s Don’t Forget statement (don’t overlook!), we’re once again faced with a comment about God and his relationship with time. So, the Don’t Forget that needs to stick is this — Don’t forget the fact God tells time differently than we do. You can’t forget that. As we’re waiting, you can’t forget God tells time differently than you do. God is not constrained by time like we are. Humans count seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, rotations of the earth, rotations of the earth around the sun. We’re always counting time. We look at our watches. We look at our phones. We remember birthdays once a year with the same amount of time passing between them. We make appointments that are set in the reality of time. We recognize that we only have a certain amount of time to live. We know deep down, as much as we hate it, vacations can’t last forever. We also know that no matter how much we want to generate more hours in a single day so that we can work more or get more done or have more fun, it’s never going to happen because for us, a day is a day and a night is a night, and we’re always stuck with twenty-four hours. We are constrained, limited, and live in time. God doesn’t. Don’t forget that. As you wait, don’t forget God tells time differently than you do. Why does that matter? Peter gives us three reasons why we can’t forget God’s relationship with time.

Reason number 1, God’s return isn’t slow like you might think. God’s return isn’t slow like you might think. Right before this, last week, we learned that the scoffers have an agenda. They want us to see God’s slowness in only one way. 2 Peter 3:1-4, Peter says,

“I’m 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?’”

When’s God coming? He said he was. He isn’t here. Where’s the coming? Scoffers and false teachers question God’s promised return and so doubt in God’s character. Is God honest? Really? All this time has passed. He hasn’t come? Is this all real? God tells time differently than we do.

God made promises about his coming, a lot of them. He calls it the day of the Lord, a great day of the Lord when all creation will be remade and everything will be set right. From a human perspective, the time between that promise and when it will be fulfilled in the future seems fast, and scoffers step into that gap of time and try to create questions about God’s promise. And in that same gap of time, between promise and fulfillment, we are prone to doubt and we’re susceptible to listen to the scoffers who question God’s promise. Peter’s answer is quite simple — Don’t forget; God tells time differently than you do; he’s outside of time.

I think Peter is saying this for these people that he loves because delay can cause doubt and discouragement. Delay can cause doubt and discouragement. It’s weird to think, but delay only exists from the perspective of those who live in time. For God, there is no delay, and that is almost impossible to illustrate because every illustration I can think of only exists within time.

Here’s my best shot. Especially when my kids were younger, when I bought my kids a Christmas present that they really, really wanted and I had it in November, I knew they had it. It was dead-sure they were getting it. In a sense, it was already theirs. I’m not going to return it. I’m not taking it away. I’m going to give them this gift. They already have it. For me, there’s no delay. It’s already true. But for my kids, it is a doubt-inducing, nail-biting affair to wait till Christmas morning to see if that’s going to arrive. That’s the best I can do to illustrate God’s promise and the reality of its fulfillment.

See, we’re time-tellers. We live inside time. When something doesn’t happen that was promised, when there’s delay, we immediately begin to question, even in the smallest of things. If you know me, my wiring, I like time. I like to be early. So, even if I have a lunch with somebody and they’re ten minutes late, I question whether they’re coming at all. And it’s only ten minutes I’ve had to wait. But we stand in this gap between God’s promise and God’s return.

When Rebecca told me that she would marry me, we set December 16th in the evening as the time of our wedding. It was a fixed point. It was going to happen. I needed to be there. Had I been late, it would have caused somewhat of a disturbance in our relationship, between promise and fulfillment.

I think this is why Peter is urging his readers don’t forget the way God tells time. The delay between God’s promise and the arrival of that promise seems like forever for us. But for God, it’s like Saturday. For God, it’s like a couple of hours in the middle of the night. Peter gives us this Don’t Forget that needs to stick. Don’t forget — God tells time differently than we do. Time hems us in. God hems in time. That allows us to interpret God’s apparent slowness accurately. We’re able to interpret this delay accurately. Peter says this — “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness.” There is a possibility to misinterpret God’s apparent slowness. The false teachers believe God’s slowness calls God’s promise into question.

Peter counters with this — no, God’s apparent slowness is patient and purposeful. It’s patient and purposeful. This is what Peter says,

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you.”

God’s waiting on humanity. God extends his love to humanity in the form of patience. For man, slowness is evidence of apathy. It’s evidence of “I don’t really care.” For God, slowness is evidence of patience.

God’s slowness is also purposeful. The delay is going somewhere. It has a reason.

“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 come to repentance.”

The goal of God’s patient delay is repentance, a change of direction for everyone. God is looking at humanity and preaching to humanity through his creation, through His Word, and through his people so that they can change the direction of their lives, that they can turn from the path they’re on of sin and self, and turn to the path of following and believing in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a turning towards the faith that Peter himself says that he has. 2 Peter 1:1,

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

God’s delay is purposeful. It’s so that more people obtain the faith that Peter’s talking about, this faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness that what Jesus did right I get to receive. God’s delay is an open invitation for more people to believe in him. For man, slowness is evidence of apathy. For God, slowness is evidence of purpose. Don’t forget — God tells time differently than we do so that we can interpret delay and slowness accurately.

Reason number 2 why we have to remember how God tells time. God’s return is a surprise, not an appointment. It’s a surprise, not an appointment. Don’t forget God’s relationship with time because his promised return is a surprise, not an appointment. The promise in question with the scoffers is this day of the Lord, the day of God’s coming. Peter says, “But the day of the Lord …” Well, what is he referencing there? Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, and Malachi are all God’s prophets in the Old Testament. They’re God’s town crier, to use a really old illustration. They’re God’s newscast to his people to give them the message that he wants them to hear. All of those mention this day of the Lord, and their collective description of the day of the Lord is a great, awesome day of God delivering his final judgment. That’s the day of the Lord.

Luke, Paul, and Peter in the New Testament all speak of that same day. It’s a great and awesome future day when God will render final justice. And Peter describes that day in this way.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.”

The day will be a surprise. It’s going to arrive like a thief breaking into a house. A thief doesn’t send a homeowner a save-the-date card. You’re taken off guard by it. Years ago, I didn’t lock my truck at night and it was broken into, and they took some change that I had in the middle and my CD collection. (That dates when this happened.) But when I walked out and the door of my truck was open, I was caught off guard. It was a surprise. That’s what this day is going to be like, and more than likely, Peter here is referencing Jesus’s teaching about that day. Jesus says this in Matthew 24.

“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Paul says the exact same thing. First Thessalonians 5:2,

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Jesus reiterates this in Revelation two times.

“Remember, then, what you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. [Change the direction of your life.] If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come against you” [Rev. 3:3].

Revelation 16:15,

“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed [happy] is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”

The day of the Lord is suspected. We know it’s coming, but it’s sudden. The day of the Lord is sure. It’s a promise, but it’s a surprise. We don’t know when it’s coming. So, be ready! Be awake! Be alert! Jesus is coming. God’s promise will be kept. Delay is not dishonesty. The day is coming. Don’t overlook. God tells time differently than we do. The time between God promising a day of the Lord and the actual day of the Lord does not matter in God’s economy of time. Don’t overlook how God tells time because his coming will be a surprise.

Reason number 3, remember how God tells time — it’s different than us — because God’s return is terrible and terrific. It is terrible and terrific. Depending on what you believe, what your faith is in, on the day of the Lord, that day is terrible or terrific. God’s return is terrible. The prophets consistently describe the day of the Lord as a terrible day of judgment. Here’s just one example of many that I could read off from those Old Testament prophets. Joel says,

“Alas, for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.”

As we wait on God to fulfill his promise, as we wait for the day of the Lord, as we remember how God tells time, we remind ourselves that that day in front of us is a day of judgment by God Almighty himself. Pause and consider. The prophets and Peter are saying take warning. This is a serious day to consider. What you believe on that day really, really matters.

Peter describes the day of the Lord using this type of language — 2 Peter 3:10,

“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 … We are waiting for and hastening the coming day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”

Peter uses cataclysmic language to describe the day of the Lord.

Recently (I live in TR) the forestry department came in and did a burn of a field on state land literally right across the street from my house. Tons of crew there started the fire on one side, let it go across and meet a fire coming from the other side, and that fire just went right through dry grass, plants, trees, I’m sure all the trash that had been in there from hikers, just went right through it. It was a controlled burn in that field to bring about new health. The day of the Lord will be a cosmic, controlled burn. On the day of the Lord, creation itself is radically altered to the point where the best description for those events is heavenly bodies dissolving.

Now, even really, really smart commentators are not overly dogmatic about what this will look like. Is this a literal fire scorching around the earth so that it’s all brand new? Is this perhaps the imagery of the destruction of spiritual powers because the culture at this point in history would connect spiritual powers to the planets and stars? So, is Peter saying spiritual powers are going to be destroyed? Is it a mixture of both? Either way, I think as you read the letter, the definitive answer there, in a sense doesn’t matter because what we can conclude definitively is that the day of the Lord will completely refine reality. And the only way Peter could describe that refining was by saying creation itself is burned and dissolved. Take warning. God’s returning. He is going to keep his promise. The day of the Lord is terrible to consider.

More happens at the day of the Lord than just a creation makeover. In the middle of the fire, Peter says this — “The earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” The day of the Lord is not only about refining what exists; it is about exposing what has been done. There is no hiding on the day of the Lord. There’re no secrets. Nothing will be unseen from God’s perspective. This event will once and for all reveal evil, and evil will be destroyed. The day of the Lord is terrible. And if Peter said no more, in a way, it’s kind of a bleak picture. But Peter adds a key detail at the end of our passage today. He says this.

“But according to his promise [God’s promise of the day of the Lord], we are waiting for new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

The refining fire that destroys makes way for a new heavens and new earth that become the home of righteousness. The new heavens and new earth house righteousness. They house a culture where everything is done right.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a world where I don’t ever think of a wrong thing? I don’t ever do a wrong thing. I’m thinking of my mom this week. There’re no more heart attacks because heart attacks are wrong. This day of the Lord that we’re looking forward to is a day where what we exist in everything is done right. We don’t die anymore because that’s wrong. Only righteousness. It’s almost … It is … It’s too much to take in! That’s how terrific it is.

Peter taught us earlier in his letter that God knows both how to judge the ungodly and to save the righteous. It is a terrible day if you do not believe in Jesus. It is a terrific day to be in Christ. The day of the Lord is a day of peril or a day of promise. And so, at this point in the letter, we all, I think, have to answer the question, how do I see the day of the Lord coming? For those of us who are in Christ, which simply means we believe in the reality that Jesus really came to earth, died for us so that we could be made right with God, that we need a Savior, we need a rescuer, that believing in him means that that day of the Lord is terrific. Outside of that, it is a day of peril, and today is the day to believe in Jesus.

So, Peter looks at us and says, “Listen, don’t forget God tells time differently than you do.” As you wait, as you experience delay, don’t forget God tells time differently than you do. God’s return isn’t slow like you might think. You could interpret this delay between promise and fulfillment as God’s apathy and slowness. No! Remember how God tells time. For him a day = thousand years; thousand years = a day. Don’t forget.

Don’t forget — God tells time differently than you do. God’s return is a surprise, not an appointment. We can’t plug God’s return, the day of the Lord, into our Google calendar. It’s not the way it works because God tells time differently than we do. But that day is coming.

Don’t forget, as you wait in delay, God tells time differently than we do, and that day in front of us, the day of the Lord, is a terrible day where God will finally render His final justice on everything, and it is a terrific day where we will get to dwell in a place where everything is done right.

Peter in his letter then helps future pastors a lot. He does that by asking an application question right in the middle of his description. So, I don’t have to come up with an application. Peter does it for us. Peter says this — “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved …” Since creation itself is going to burn and be refined and recreated in this terrible day … since that’s going to happen, “what sort of people ought you to be?” If that’s coming, if that day is coming, if that promise is going to be fulfilled, what type of people should you be between now and then in lives of holiness and godliness? The application question is how should I live now? Very, very real, practical … How should I wake up today?

And he gives us an answer with two pairs of words — first, holiness and godliness. Not the first time Peter’s used those words in the book, by the way. It’s a great clue. You go right back up to chapter 1 that talks all about remembering to grow. What should we be like because the day of the Lord is coming? Well, we should be living lives of holiness and godliness. Keep growing! Don’t forget to keep growing. Don’t get stagnant, and don’t fall backwards. Keep living lives of holiness and godliness in Jesus.

The second pair of words is waiting and hastening. How should we live, living a life of holiness and godliness? How should we live? Waiting and hastening. Waiting is part of the gig. It’s part of being a follower of Jesus. Waiting is part of what we do. I’m not a great waiter. It’s not really in my skill set because waiting is a weird word. I think we can determine whether waiting is good or bad, depending upon the context … A groom, standing at the front of the church, waiting for his bride to open the back doors and start that processional … Great waiting! Beautiful waiting! Look at Instagram and see all the videos of the guy starting to cry as she walks down the aisle. It’s great waiting! Standing in the line at the DMV … Not quite as good. A little bit harder for your sanctification, to stand in the line at the DMV.

So, waiting … Depending upon context and what we’re waiting for, there’s good and bad waiting. And I think, brothers and sisters, I think this is a really big deal for those of us who follow Jesus. We don’t live in bad waiting. Waiting for Jesus is not standing in line at the DMV. It’s waiting for the groom and the bride. That’s what our waiting is like. That word “waiting” is actually an anticipatory word. Think of waiting as active. It’s the runner who’s getting into the blocks ready to sprint. We would use the image like “we’re on the edge of our seat.” Have you ever heard that phrase? You can’t even lean back. You’re a little bit too tense. You’re ready to go. That’s what Peter’s talking about. This day of the Lord, for those of us who believe in Jesus, this terrific day that’s coming at us, we’re like, okay, come on, come on. I’m ready to go. It’s active, good waiting. How should you live? If all of this is going to be dissolved, how should you live? Keep growing in holiness and godliness, and be on the edge of your toes waiting for the day.

Final word — hastening, hastening, making that day appear faster. How do we do that? That feels a little weird, at least to me. Okay, God, how can I make this day that’s going to be a surprise happen faster? How do I get to participate in that? That feels weird. Well, I actually don’t think it’s too crazy. I think God’s looking at us and saying, “Be part of my patient and purposeful delay.” Why is God patient and purposeful? He’s waiting for people to believe in him, and we get to participate in that mission. That’s part of why we’re here. That’s part of what we do while we wait for the terrific day of the Lord. We walk out into the cultures that we live in and the subcultures and the context that we live in, and we tell God’s patient and purposeful story so that other people hear it and believe it. We wait, and we hasten. Don’t forget. God tells time differently than we do. He will keep his promise about the day of the Lord. And between now and then, brothers and sisters, if your faith is in Jesus, then God’s calling you to grow in a life of holiness and godliness. He’s asking you to anticipate his coming and help that day arrive sooner by participating in his mission.

If you don’t know Jesus, then today is actually a terrific invitation for you to believe in him. And I’d love to talk to you afterwards. There are other people here who would love to talk to you about what does it actually mean to believe and follow Jesus. We’re waiting, but we’re waiting with hope.

And I think Jesus was really kind to us when he gave us an actual meal to help us wait. The Lord’s Supper, Communion, Eucharist (you might have heard in church world language like that) is simply a time where Jesus gathered with his friends in part of a Jewish cultural meal (Passover) and created a new meal for his followers to celebrate. And it’s actually all about waiting and proclaiming. Jesus said that this meal is … You proclaim my death. We proclaim the reality that Jesus died for us. That’s what we do all together when we take this meal. But the beauty, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 11, is that this meal is on the clock, so to speak. There’s a time frame that we have this meal, and it’s only until Jesus comes back. You proclaim his death until he comes back. So, this is a waiting meal. We remind ourselves that Jesus died for us as we wait for him to come back. So, this meal, if you follow Jesus, is wide open for you to participate in it. It’s a family remembering, proclaiming, waiting meal. We’re going to hand this out. We’re going to hand out a piece of bread and a small cup of juice, and we invite you to take part.

I would also say Paul is clear in I Corinthians 11 that one of the things that happens is this is a very unifying meal, that we do this meal together, we consider each other as we eat. So, would you even take a moment as we sing together and hand out these elements to consider your relationship with other believers in this body, that those are healthy relationships? Paul would warn us to do that. We’re going to hand that out. I’ll come back up, and we’ll all take this meal together in a few minutes. Don’t forget. God tells time differently than we do.