The Big Surprise

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May 4, 2018

2 Peter 3:3-7 (NLT)

3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

CONSIDER THIS

Here’s the big surprise takeaway from today’s text:

  1. There will be a final judgment.
  2. God will do the judging, not us.     

That’s it. We could stop there, but let’s not. 

We’re not talking about “judge not lest ye be judged.” We’re talking about the Second Coming. The return of Christ. The final judgment. 

But we’re not talking today about if there’s a “rapture” or when he’ll return or how to read the signs. We’re talking about remembering that he’s coming back to judge and that people will mock, make fun of, and ignore us because of the gospel. That’s what Peter’s getting at today: “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.” (v.3)

Most importantly, I want to remind you. 

Why? So we’re not surprised when it happens. We’ve been warned. It’s the way it is. We need this reminder because we can spend an awful lot of spiritual, emotional, relational, and evangelistic energy and capital on being offended, upset, and afraid when we sense people mock us, disagree with us, or go against us. 

Why do many believers get so surprised and angry every time it happens, even though Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)

My friend Chuck Gutenson once told me, “Don’t confuse your role as a witness with the role of the Holy Spirit. Your job is simply to share the gospel in love. Their response is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility.” 

Yes, there is an urgency to the share the gospel, but that’s not the same as getting so worked up that we lose our witness. In an ironic twist, the temptation is to compromise and abdicate to false teachers who play on our fears and anger, promising that those scoffers will be dealt with, and we’ll end up on top.

But that’s not our job. It’s God’s. He dealt with this once before in Noah’s day, and we can be encouraged that he’s going to take care of it again. As N.T. Wright says in his book Surprised by Hope:

“Confessing Jesus as the ascended and coming Lord frees us from needing to pretend that this or that program or leader has the key to utopia… it frees up our corporate life from the despair that comes when we realize that once again our political system let us down… People who believe that Jesus is already Lord and that he will appear again as judge of the world are called and equipped to think and act quite differently in the world from those who don’t.”

So how do we think and act differently from false teachers and the rest of the mocking world? What does our role as a witness look like? Peter’s already told us, remember? “In view of [sharing God’s divine nature], make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

He’s going to say it again a little later, but we’ll go ahead and take sneak-peak: “… 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. 3:14)

This shouldn’t be a surprise. 

THE PRAYER

Heavenly Father, when I encounter people who mock or disagree with me, help me when I confuse my role as a witness with the role of your Holy Spirit. Help me to respond in your divine nature of holy love, and then leave the rest up to you. In Jesus name. Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Did anything surprise you today? Can you resonate with confusing roles? What would it mean for the spread of the gospel if we got those roles right? 

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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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