Look Away

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May 8, 2018

2 Peter 3:10-14 (NLT)

10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. 11 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

CONSIDER THIS

We’ve hit the good stuff: the end of the world. The best pyrotechnics show in the cosmos as final judgment descends on the Earth. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

So I’m not going to talk about it.

Not because I don’t think it’s important, because it’s of vital importance to our theology. The mystery of our faith is “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!” It’s part of our most ancient creed: “He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

So why am I not going to focus on it? Because I don’t think it’s what Peter wanted his hearers to focus on. Yes, he says, the return of Christ is going to be a spectacular event, and we want it to get here sooner rather than later. But what we’re really waiting for is on the other side of that event. So while we’re waiting, let’s focus on today. 

Peter writes, “But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.” (v. 13-14)

In other words, live the new heaven and new earth now. That’s our focus as believers. But even though when Jesus is talking about his return in Matthew 24 he essentially says, “Don’t panic. I’m coming in great glory,” we tend to panic. 

As I’ve written before in the Daily Text during Advent, panic has helped create an end-times industrial complex: Preachers, teachers, conferences, books, movies – all aimed at predicting when Christ will return and what will happen to the world – have steadily flooded the Christian consumer market. I would argue it’s a form of false teaching (the kind Peter mentioned in chapter two that some make up to get our money). I call it “apocalyptic anxiety,” and it’s not of God. It shifts the focus from growing our faith to fanning the almost literal flames of fear… and fear sells. 

But I want to lean the way Eugene Peterson translates this inThe Message: The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness. So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace.

We’ll hardly notice because we’ll be looking the other way. 

How do we do that? How do we look away from fear and focus on living in purity and peace? Well, not to sound like a broken record, but once again it’s how Peter opens this letter. We’ll let Mr. Peterson take it home for us this time:

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

THE PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I want to be ready for Jesus to return. To do that, help me look away from quick glances of fear, and instead help me gaze deep into the faith of your Son Jesus. In His name. Amen.

THE QUESTION

What are you doing “while you wait for these things to happen?” Has it been out of faith or fear or both? What is the Holy Spirit possibility here, and how can you participate? 

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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