Trinity XXVI - 2 Peter 3:3-14 - November 25, 2015

Hymn #91 Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
Hymn #611 The Day Is Surely Drawing Near
Hymn #53 Abide, O Dearest Jesus

Isaiah 40:9-11
2 Peter 3:3-14
St. Matthew 25:31-46

Collect for Trinity XXVI

O God, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by Thy Holy Spirit that, being ever mindful of the end of all things and the day of Thy just judgment, we may stirred up to holiness of living here and dwell with Thee forever hereafter; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Epistle Lesson

1)         St. Peter tells us in today’s epistle lesson that in the last days scoffers will come who do two interrelated things. First, they will walk in their own lusts. This means that they will live their lives and arrange their conduct to suit their own desires for carnal pleasure, worldly honor, and power over men. These scoffers will be quite Epicurean because they will pursue the fulfillment of their desires, pleasure being the greatest good they can attain. They will walk in such a manner because of the second thing they do. They willfully forget that there will be and end to all things, a deluge-like destruction of the world, and a final judgment. Since they willfully forget that there will be a judgment for their deeds they can do as they please. They are scoffers because they scoff at the morality of natural law and Scripture while simultaneously scoffing at the idea that Christ will return to judge the quick and dead. What is interesting about these scoffers is that they willfully forget the past destruction of the world in the days of Noah. The rainbow was a sign to all generations that the Lord would not destroy the earth again . . . with water. These people willfully forget that destruction for the earth’s great wickedness so that they can willfully forget the coming destruction of the world by fire. Think about what we see in our age. The great deluge, the flood during the days of Noah, has been relegated to fable and fairy-tale by the proponents of the theory of evolution. The Flood, to many of them, never happened. If we can erase the first great judgment of the world for wickedness, there is no reason to believe in a coming judgment. At the same time now we see the rainbow hijacked by the LGBTQ movement as their symbol. This is no coincidence. Since the flood has been demoted to a cute children’s story, the sign of the covenant that God will not destroy the earth in that fashion again, is up for grabs to be branded into a sign proclaiming wickedness and suppressing the truth of nature. The scoffers of whom St. Peter writes of are alive and well in our day, rejecting the idea from the past and for the future of any end, any judgment, and destruction of this world in which we all live. Willfully neglecting the past and future judgment, they are free to walk after their own lusts and desires, whatever they might be.

2)         St. Peter’s words in the rest of today’s epistle serve as an antidote for this mindset and willful forgetfulness, so that the Christian living in the world does not succumb to such ahistorical thinking and lifestyle. He doesn’t just say, “Don’t worry, ya’ll. Christ will return. He said He would. Just wait.” He roots this long wait for Christ’s return in God’s attributes of eternity and mercy. First he writes that time doesn’t matter to God because God is everlasting. With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. From our finite point of view, the Lord has delayed long in returning. But this is not so. God is timeless, outside of time. This is why the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness. Those that think the Lord will not return after so long a time, almost two thousand years now, are thinking of God according to human categories rather than divine. Not only is the Lord everlasting and outside of time, but His eternalness is directly related to His mercy in this matter. He is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He’s not dillydallying. He’s not loafing. Nor has He forgotten or become lazy and negligent regarding His promises. It’s just the opposite. He tarries, or seems to tarry from our point of view, out of mercy, that more might come to repentance and faith in Christ’s atonement. He demonstrates His unfathomable and inexhaustible patience with sinners by giving the world another day and another day and still another to hear the Word of God, repent of their sins, and come to the knowledge of the truth that God saves sinners from their deserved punishment through faith in Christ.

3)         But this longsuffering will come to an end. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. The scoffers, by willfully forgetting the days of Noah and Christ’s promised return, show their hatred not only for God, but for God’s mercy. As the wicked world was cleansed through water from both the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven in the days of Noah, so the heavens and earth will be subject to flames, along with everything in it. Those who scoff at God’s threats of judgment for impenitent sinners must yet be reminded that history has a beginning so it will have an end. While the scoffers suppress the natural knowledge of God that is hardwired into them at creation, they must be reminded that there is a final judgment by the one who created the heavens and the earth. Even the saints of God must be reminded of this end because each of us still carry with us the Old Adam, our sinful flesh, which wants to walk according to its own lusts and desires as if there is no end. Not only that, but the Christian lives in the world and the world is ever-tempting the Christian to conform to its ways of thinking and its patterns of morality and sinfulness. Keeping the end in mind, the goal of all human history, serves as a remedy against Epicureanism which tempts us to pursue pleasure and ease at all costs as if it were the highest good and goal of life.

4)         This is what St. Peter means when he says, Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons out you to be in holy conduct and godliness? With all these things in view, how then shall you live, dear child of the Most High? What manner of persons ought you to be? You are called to holy conduct and godliness, knowing that all things will burn in the end. But your Lord doesn’t say this to threaten you into good works. They wouldn’t be good works, holy conduct and godliness if they were done out of coercion of the Law. Holy conduct and godliness can only spring from faith in God’s promises, the faith which looks forward to the fulfillment of His Word. St. Peter doesn’t hang the final judgment and dissolving of the elements over you to coerce you. Holy conduct and godliness are motivated by the promise. He writes, Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. The motivation for holy conduct and godliness isn’t the law but the Gospel. Though everything will burn the Lord will create new heavens and a new earth where righteousness will dwell. No longer will sin infect the creation, for the old has passed away in flames. No longer will death plague God’s people. Death is swallowed up in the life of Christ at the resurrection of the dead. No longer with the Devil, the world, along with our own sinful flesh tempt and test us with sin and rebellion, with lust and desires, for our enemies will be no more. The old things will pass away and only the new will exist.

5)         The new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells, that is what the Christian looks forward to in faith and hope. Because of this the Christian is to live in holy conduct and godliness, being diligent to be found without spot and blameless. And what does holy conduct mean? It’s more than just being good. Holy conduct is living according to God’s commandments in the holy orders, or vocations. In Luther’s Small Catechism, at the beginning of the Table of Duties, the most neglected part of the Catechism along with Confession, begins by calling each of the duties and vocations that Scripture assigns to us as Holy Orders and Stations. Your conduct is to be fitting for your Holy Orders, your vocations in which the Triune God has placed you. It is in these places that you are conduct yourself in a holy fashion, that is, according to your calling as a Christian.

6)         These stations are given to you to be a service to your neighbor. You are hearers of the Word in the church, therefore you are to hold preaching and the Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. As citizens you are to work for the good of the state, supporting it to the best of your ability and even speaking against its policies if they violate natural law. Husbands are to love their wives with self-sacrifice. Wives are to submit to their husbands in love and respect for their self-sacrifice. Parents are to raise their children in the fear of the Lord. Children are to honor their parents, obey them and esteem them. Workers are to do everything as if for the Lord, while employers are to serve their subordinates by being fair and just. Youth are to be submissive to elders and to learn humility while widows and widowers are to practice chastity and service to their church and neighbor. Above all, each of you have the holy calling of Christian, little Christ, whereby you are called to love thy neighbor as yourself and persevere in prayer for all men. These vocations, with all their duties, are given to you for the sake of your neighbor.

7)         The Christian lives quite differently from the scoffer because the Christian seeks the good and welfare of his neighbor in all things. The Christian also thinks differently than the scoffer, for the Christian does not willfully forget, but rejoices in the promise of the end. You know that after the destruction by flame of fire comes the new heaven and the new earth where righteousness dwells. This is St. Peter’s admonition to the church today. Do not neglect the promise of the end. Do not mistake God’s longsuffering and mercy for slackness and idleness. Do not forget what you receive at the end, the reward of faith, the crown of life with Christ your Lord. Until that day, with all this in mind, consider how you live in holy conduct and godliness, not because these things save you. Only faith in Christ’s merits and atonement do that. But consider your holy conduct and godliness in this age, knowing that you are justified through faith in Christ, and trusting His gracious promises of all the blessings of the life of the world to come. Amen.

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