Our conduct should be different (11).
The return of Christ has always been a sobering message for believers. As we think about the possibility of him returning tonight, we are reminded that our thoughts, actions, and speech need to be pleasing to him. We realize that and want to be found faithful. But Peter does not use the return of Christ as the motivating factor here. Instead, he speaks of the destruction of all that is physical. With that in mind, how should we act?
First, we are to be known for holy conduct.
Holiness is what sets God apart from sinful humanity. He is perfect in all his attributes without any failings at all. As sinful human beings we wonder how we could ever attain such a status. Is it possible to become completely perfect as God is? No, we are not called to be completely sinless; we are commanded to be holy. In other words, we are commanded to live in such a way that others see that we are like our heavenly Father. D. Edmond Hiebert says, that “separation from evil and dedication unto God must mark [our] daily conduct” (Second Peter and Jude 162-163). This is true. We are to exemplify the difference God has made in our lives and that will separate us from the rest of the world.
Second, we are to be known for our godliness.
Godliness is a word that we often misunderstand. If you take it as face value, you would think that it means God like. “Everything that God is, I must be.” You know that this is impossible, so it must mean something else. Godliness means “a life of piety, respect, and reverence” (Rienecker & Rogers 782). You know people who have been characterized by godliness. Just being around them caused you to want to seek the Lord. Their conversations are filled with thoughts about God and what he is doing in their lives. They have such a high regard for the Lord that all of their life reflects it. This is godliness.
You might ask yourself tonight if your conduct is any different than the rest of the world. Do your thoughts, speech, and actions reflect God’s holiness and a respect for who he is? If not, you might consider making some changes.
Our goals should be different (12).
One of my favorite gospel tracts is the multipanel cartoon tract, Then What?, produced by Ron Wheeler (the artist who has produced our VBS artwork for the last three years). In this particular tract, two friends meet on a public bus and catch up on what has happened since they last saw each other. During the conversation, the Christian asks his friend what his goals are. Each time he answers, the Christian follows up with the question, “Then What?” By the end of the tract, the other man becomes frustrated with the repeated question, but eventually begins to wonder. “After I get all the things I want, I’m going to die. Then what?”
The truth is that most Christians live the same way. We enjoy the pleasures of life and all the possessions we can get. We love the temporal more than we do the eternal. But our lives ought to be a lot different. We ought to have different goals than those who have not yet been regenerated. Notice what Peter says.
The heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.
All that we have right now will one day be destroyed. While we should be good stewards of what the Lord has given us, we need to remember that one day those things will be destroyed. So, what should our goals be? The goal pointed out by Peter is the coming day of the Lord. We should be looking forward to it and hastening its coming.
Our eyes need to be focused on the goal of God’s kingdom. As Christ taught his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer, we should be praying for his kingdom to come (Matt. 6:10). But under the inspiration of the Spirit, Peter seems to take that a step further. Not only are we to have a desire for the kingdom to come, but our actions should be hastening its coming.
The participle used here can mean, “hurry, hasten, be zealous, or strive for” (BAGD 762). But even with that definition, you could take Peter’s words two different ways. The first way is to see this as a strong desire for the coming of the Day of the Lord. The translators of the King James Version seem to take it this way. One’s desire for the kingdom will be evidenced in a life that is constantly becoming more like a subject of the coming kingdom. “But the more usual meaning … is ‘to urge (or) hasten on, to accelerate’ ” (Hiebert 163). If taken this way, Peter is saying that Christians can hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord. How is this possible?
This is one of those statements in Scripture that causes you to scratch your head. How can my actions cause the kingdom to arrive any earlier? Perhaps a good parallel to this is prayer. God is sovereign over everything. His goals will be accomplished regardless of any opposition to them. And yet, God commands us to pray. We are to present our petitions before him and pray earnestly for them to be answered. Do our prayers influence God? Yes, somehow our prayers are incorporated into the divine plan of God. That is baffling, but is still true.
Another example is our part in evangelism. As we think about the need for God to work, we may wonder why we even need to tell people the gospel. No person can be saved unless God draws him to himself and God gives him the faith to believe. However, God incorporates the ministry of evangelism into that process. Yes, he is ultimately in charge of salvation, but without us presenting the gospel to people, who would be saved? (Rom. 10:14)
Perhaps we can look at this passage in the same way. We do not feel that our work is essential to the coming of the kingdom, but Peter says as much. Somehow, God incorporates our holy conduct and diligent activity into the timing of the Day of the Lord. So, let us do what we can to hasten its coming. Instead of living for self, let us live in such a way that we are not a hindrance to God’s plan for the future.
Our desires should be different (13).
Earlier in the epistle, Peter has described the sinful lifestyles of the false teachers. In contrast to their temporal and immoral desires, Christians should have their eyes fixed on the coming kingdom of their Lord. Peter describes it as “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Prophetic books describe the coming kingdom as something much better than what we now have. The millennial kingdom will be a wonderful time for believers to enjoy life under the sovereign and righteous rule of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then after the final battle, and the Great White Throne Judgment, all evil will be done away with. The apostle John describes in vivid detail what the new heavens and earth will be like:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Once evil has been removed for good, eternity will be a perfect place of righteousness which we can enjoy. Does that sound good? Does it bring rejoicing to your heart that this life is not all there is? Those days of eternal righteousness ought to be the desire of our hearts. It all brings more meaning to the words of Jesus, when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
As you read these words, I have no doubt in my mind, that God’s Holy Spirit has been working. As you consider the temporal nature of all that we possess, how foolish it would be for any of us to live for the here and now. It would be much better to live with eternity in mind. Sadly, we need these kind of reminders quite often because the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life often get a grip on our affections. With that in mind, let us renew our dedication to the Lord and his purposes for the short time that we have left in this life.