Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st and 2nd Peter. Day 26, The Patience Of The Lord

Today Peter talks about the patience of the Lord. We sometimes feel like the wicked just keep on prospering with no punishment in sight, but their day is coming if they do not repent. And we ought to be grateful for the patience of the Lord, for wasn't He patient with us? How many opportunities did He offer us before we accepted His invitation to salvation? Even though many will never accept His invitation, the Lord's righteousness will not allow Him to withhold the offer from anyone.

Peter knows he is going to lose his life for the gospel very soon. He's concerned about heresies creeping into the church. He's angry that false prophets are working hard to lead people astray. This is why in his final letter he has such strong words to say against those who promote false doctrine. Souls are at stake! There is nothing more serious than the eternal destinies of human souls.

"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate your wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles." (2 Peter 3:1-2) He urges them, "Hold to the truth! If you hide the word of the Lord in your heart you will recognize false doctrine. Study what the prophets have said. Study what the Lord Jesus has said. Study what the apostles have taught you. If what your teachers are saying do not line up with these things, reject their teaching."

Knowing God's holy word is the best insurance plan against falling for lies. Remember how Jesus handled His temptation in the wilderness? He replied to every taunt of Satan with the word of God. To every alternative to the cross that Satan offered Him, Jesus said, "It is written" and then He quoted the Scriptures. This is how we handle false doctrine and the lies of the devil and the deception of false teachers. We must know what is written.

"Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this "coming" He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as I has since the beginning of creation.' But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction for the ungodly." (2 Peter 3:3-7) Peter says, "They joke about the return of Christ as if it is not going to happen. The longer time goes on, the more they will scoff at the idea. They will say, 'Two thousand years have passed and Christ hasn't returned yet. Why do you believe He's going to? Why do you believe in such fairy tales? This world has always been here and it always will be here. Nothing is ever going to change. There is no 'judgment day'. There is no reward for the righteous. Life is the same as it always has been and it always will be the same. We need to get everything out of it we can instead of believing in myths.'"

But they forget that the world has not always been here and that the Lord spoke the universe into existence out of nothing. One day there was nothing; the next day there was something. They forget that the Lord destroyed the ancient world with the flood. This was an act of judgment against the wickedness of the world, so why would anyone believe God is not capable of bringing judgment again? Just because judgment seems slow in coming doesn't mean it's not coming. The people of Noah's day laughed and made fun of him during the 120 years he built the ark and preached repentance to them. With every year that passed, their scorn of Noah's message continued to grow. They probably said, "He's been warning us about a flood for 119 years and 11 months. Well, where is it? It isn't coming. Noah is a madman." But the next month the rain began to fall and Noah was proved right. This is how the final judgment is going to come. Those who have scorned the truth will see the error they have made.

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9) Peter quotes the words of Moses from Psalm 90:4, "A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night." God has all of eternity at His disposal. To an eternal being, a thousand years is a very short time. It is not difficult for God to be patient. Time means little for the One who has existed forever and who will continue to exist forever. He has not yet brought judgment upon the world because He can afford to be patient in giving mankind time to repent. He knows that some will and some won't, but either way no one will ever be able to stand trial before Him and claim, "You never gave me a chance!" The people of Noah's day could not truthfully cry out as they stood outside the ark, "The Lord never gave us a chance to repent!" They'd had 120 years in which to accept Noah's message from the Lord. The same will be true in the final days. No one can say, "But we never had time to change our minds! We never had a chance to hear the truth! We might have done something different if the Lord had only given us one more day to repent."

Today is always the day of salvation. We aren't promised the next breath, much less tomorrow. In a highly developed nation like the United States we have no excuse for claiming we haven't heard the truth. The word of God is available to us like never before. We don't even have to own a Bible. We can read His word on our phones, our tablets, or our computers. We can listen to it on the radio as we drive down the road. We can turn the TV on and find a generous selection of religious programming to watch. God has graciously made His word available to us in any form we prefer to receive it. If we refuse to accept it, we cannot truthfully ever say to Him, "You never gave me a chance to hear the gospel. If You'd just somehow made it more available to me, I'd have listened to it and repented. But I never had the opportunity." Even the patience of God will someday come to an end, and the judgment He has foretold will fall. Today is the day to accept what He has said. Today is the day to make our hearts right with Him.

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