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2 Peter 3:1-11 – Sermon Notes

By August 20, 2023Sermon Notes

Gary Morson is professor of Humanities at Northwestern University and an expert on Russian literature.

I listened to an interview with him that was fascinating.

He talked about the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was driven by the ideology of Marx that was implemented by Lenin and Stalin.

The official policy was terror…Lenin was clear about this.

When writing the first Soviet law code…he said, “We don’t treat mass terror as something we did just during the civil war, it is to be a permanent feature of our regime.”

The result was a hell on earth.

Terror with no end in mind, other than to create chaos…to rule by fear.

Children turning in parents, secret police arresting each other, neighbors turning on neighbors to avoid the gulag…arrest by quota…the country went mad.

I was in Russia not long after the Iron Curtain fell and you could still feel the fear in the air.

It wasn’t paranoia…that means unjustified fear

Their fear was very justified.

Stalin killed around 60 million of his own people…including through what was called “Holdomor” or “death by hunger” in Ukraine in 1930…millions were force starved even as they were forced to grow food for mother Russia.

It was also called “The terror famine.”

Everything was about ruling through terror.

One man, who survived, the terror famine…wrote.

“If only we had been slaves unto Pharoah in Egypt, they had families, they ate, they didn’t work at 50 below zero”

Human beings were cogs in a wheel of an ideology, which at its core was atheism.

Stalin once gave a toast, “To the cogs!”

There have been many times and places where governments have killed their own people…but it was at least in token fashion said, “We don’t kill people unless we have to.”

Lenin and Stalin would not tolerate that kind of talk.

Any hint that human life matters, even if you were to seek to economize who you kill…was to be rejected.

People are material objects, and to say or think otherwise is to take a religious view.

The Soviet Union was founded on radical materialism…any hint that human life is sacred must absolutely be eliminated.

In the Soviet Union, humans were machines, they have no souls and no ultimate value.

A cog in a machine has no transcendent value…it is utilitarian in its purpose…if broken, or unneeded…you toss it.

Lenin and Stalin were evil creatures, demonic in their wickedness.

But, for all they were wrong about, which would be almost everything.

They were not wrong about this…to believe that humans are more than material objects is to take a religious view.

Human life matters since God exists.

If God does not exist, there is no reason to believe that human life matters.

Since God is directing human history…human history has meaning.

If he is not…it does not.

I see no way around this…everything matters, or nothing does.

Since God is alive and involved…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for the glory of God.

Since God began history, and he is directing it…and he will being its conclusion…it has purpose…and our part in it is meaningful.

So, love for God and others….matters.

Love of coffee, or planting flowers, or a sunset…matters.

Understand this…if there is no God, whatever you think you are feeling…love, joy, purpose, meaning…it’s all illusion.

It all matters if God is alive and involved…none of it does if he is not.

2 Peter 3 today and next week.

3 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

In the last chapter Peter was hard on the sellers of heresy, now he is back to encouraging the faithful.

Three times in this chapter he calls them, “beloved” or “dear friends.”

He didn’t use a lot of friendly terms in the last chapter.

It’s not because he is a hard headed or hard-hearted guy…he is a shepherd…truth matters…that which is not true, if believed and lived…will destroy lives.

Asks those who lived through the terror famine…lies can kill.

He is not telling them anything new here, he is reminding them of important truth.

We more frequently need to be reminded than informed.

When someone tells me they have a new book with some new spiritual truth…I’m not interested.

I don’t need a geez whiz new truth…I need new passion for old truth.

I love reading books where an author creatively, presents old truth.

But when it comes to Scriptural truth…if it’s brand new, it’s not true.

By Scriptural truth…I mean just that, not some specific cultural form of biblical application…that never was required by the Bible…or maybe even allowed by it.

So, real Biblical truth…told over and over is what we need to be reminded of.

Peter wrote that he wants to stir up their “sincere mind” by way of reminder.

This is Pastor Peter communicating confidence in his friends.

He is saying, “You got this, your minds are not contaminated by the heresy and lust all around you…you are not controlled, like animals of instinct, by your passions.”

You are not perfect…but you got this…because Christ has you.

Now, he writes…let me remind you, stir up your sincere minds, of what you know and believe.

The ones who needed to be rebuked(insincere minds) weren’t reading this letter and didn’t care (that’s why he wrote in chapter two about (they, them).

The ones who were listening, and cared(we, us, dear friends)…didn’t need to be rebuked but encouraged.

I dare say that everyone in this room is more in need of encouragement than rebuke…we are here because we want to be here(unless you are teen, who like me was made to come to church).

And most of us, want to be here because we want to grow…love for God and others.

None of us is perfect, but those who are training for godliness are becoming more like Christ over time…this a promise and fact.

We gather week after week to be reminded, to have our minds and hearts stirred up again by the truth.

We don’t need smoke and mirrors to get emotionally charged…we don’t need a burst of feelings that doesn’t last past lunch.

We need truth…week after week, day after day.

Truth shapes us into the image of Christ, this process is mostly incremental (bit by bit, over a long time).

There are occasional experiences where we grow more rapidly.

These are almost always times of great suffering and difficulty.

So, if you want to take a great leap forward in faith and depth of love for God and others…it won’t come at conference, a night of worship, even a revival.

These are fine…but they are just one part of incremental change.

The big leaps forward are almost always times of suffering.

For the most part, growth is, again, incremental.

What was the content of this “stirring up their minds”?

2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

He was reminding them that the Lord Jesus will return someday…and that scoffers will…well scoff.

Dog goes whoof, cat goes meow, what does the scoffer…say…

They scoff… it’s what they do…because it is who they are.

To scoff is to speak in a derisive or mocking way.

Paul doesn’t just say that “people will scoff” but there are “scoffers (a certain kind of formed character) and what these kinds of people do is scoff, they are mockers…they is a category of fool in Proverbs.

We can all, scoff at times, but we are not all scoffers.

Just like every man gets angry but not every man is an angry man.

This specific kind of people, with hearts mishappen by their own pride, scoff at the things of God because his truth is inconvenient to them.

The truth rebukes their sinful lifestyles, and instead of repenting and living in the freedom of truth…they attack the truth and try to convince others to do the same.

I read where a university scientist once said, “Evolution is impossible but I believe it anyway because the alternative is unacceptable to me.”

He was a very immoral man, and he choose his immorality over truth

His problem with God was moral not intellectual.

Peter is reminding his readers of the reality of the return of Christ and this passage reminds us that thinking about the return of Christ and the end of this present age is meant to be largely a morality/character shaping reality…not some item of intellectual/theological curiosity.

I have known churches and people who have fought and split over different ideas about the return of Christ…they have fought each other, over what is to be character shaping truth.

I had a man tell me I was a “scoffer” not because I doubted the future return of Christ but because I doubted the author of a ridiculous book entitled “88 reasons why Christ will return in 88.”

The title alone is dumb enough to give pause…this was of course, in 1988.

This man apologized to me in 1989.

The scoffers were, Peter said, following their own sinful desires…the idea of ultimate accountability was inconvenient for their chosen lifestyles.

By the way, if you are interested in “end times” and the impact of your interest does not positively change how you treat people around you right now…

….and it doesn’t leave you more comforted and with less fear of the future…then you have entirely missed the point.

They scoff because years have passed and Christ has not returned.

Peter writes, they deliberately overlook the fact that it was a long time between Creation and the flood.

The people at that time scoffed at the idea of judgement…day after day…the earth turned, the sun rose and set…no change, no flood, no judgment.

But then the flood happened.

Now, Peter writes…people scoff because…the days come and go…and nothing happens, so nothing will happen.

Atheists most often believe in what is called “a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.”

This just means that there are certain “laws” of science in place, things are not random so we can actually do science.

The universe is a giant clock that keeps time but there is no clockmaker…or no one to tinker with the clock.

If there was no uniformity of cause and effect then science and life would be impossible.

A medicine that healed today, would kill tomorrow because the material world is not uniform…it’s all a dice roll.

Planes fly because of certain laws of aerodynamics today but tomorrow those laws change…and planes suddenly fall.

A “closed system” just means that the physical cosmos is all there is…there is no “super natural” no clockmaker

Of course, whether the system is closed or not…we could only know if someone outside the system told us so…in which case it would not be closed but open.

How would you know that this room is all there is in existence, unless someone from outside the room told you so…then it would not be all there is.

Jesus entered the world as God incarnate…what he taught and did, demonstrated that he is Lord of all and that there is more than a mere physical world.

We do live in a universe of uniformity of cause and effect…normally things happen normally…but it is not a closed system…God exists independent of it…and he has created it…he owns it.

So, when Jesus, enters our space and time…and tells us what is real and true…he knows.

When he tells us that he will return, not as Savior, but as judge, bringing justice…he must be believed.

The scoffers, scoff…not because they have certain facts in their favor…but because they don’t want this to be true…it hampers their life choices.

I’m not saying that every unbelieving person, is an unbeliever because they want to be immoral…I don’t think that is true.

This is true for some of them, and it is true for the ones Peter is talking about.

I do believe that every unbeliever must deny not just the world around them but what their own hearts tell them (Paul addresses both of these realities in Romans 1 and 2).

Peter uses Scripture to address the scoffers, actually, to help the faithful deal with them.

He uses two main points; one related to God’s eternal nature and the other his enduring love.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

He quotes Ps 90:4, “One day is like a thousand years to God”

What we regard as a long time is nothing to God.

“Oh, yeah…use the time is relative card.”

It’s not an easy out for Peter it is a reality of God.

God is in fact eternal…he exists outside of space and time.

So, to say, “What are you waiting for, God, it’s been a long time (2000 years).”

From God’s perspective, “Nah, it’s been a couple days, besides, whose asking?”

“You’ve lived for what, 20 or 60 or 100 years?”

“You have never lived in more than one place at a time, because you are in fact, stuck in space and time.”

It is ridiculous for a human to question God…we have questions and we can ask them.

But we are foolish to think we can question his power, wisdom, or goodness.

God is a being of eternal nature and he is a being of enduring love.

He is not slow, as some think of slowness…he is patient, intentional…not wanting any to perish.

At that point, some would begin to reason…”If he is waiting for all to repent, and more are being born each year and more are dying without repenting…how does this math work out?”

It’s not a math equation…it is God’s sovereign plan.

If you have repented and have trusted Christ…are you not glad that you were born and will have the opportunity to enjoy Christ forever?

I am certainly happy that Christ didn’t return in 1957…I personally enjoy existing and I look forward to eternity with Christ.

This is not a math problem to be solved…it is a trust issue.

Peter is saying…the Lord is eternal and he is loving.

He wrote…I am an eyewitness to his glory; I can speak personally of who he is…don’t be thrown off by the scoffers…they don’t have a case.

Your faith is on solid ground…now press on, suffer well, be faithful…because the fact is, just as there was a first coming there will be second one.

The Bible starts like this, “In the Beginning.”

That very phrase, indicates a coming end.

Human history as we currently experience it is a story that has a beginning and an end.

The end was written before the beginning happened.

The end will come when it comes…we are not to speculate on it, or fear it.

What Peter intended, was for this truth to lead to missional action not mere academic discussion.

The intended action was evangelism…tell the gospel to the people God has put in your lives.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

The idea of the Lord’s return being like a thief is that it will be sudden and unexpected but it need not be, in fact it should not be.

Not that we will know when…but that we will stay ready.

For the unprepared the coming of a criminal can be disastrous…for the prepared, it is not.

They are ready.

The whole idea is…be prepared.

How are we to live prepared?

End time calendars and charts, read the news looking for the anti-Christ, stockpile food and guns?

No, stop guessing…Peter tells us.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,

Since the cosmos in its current state will come to end…what sort of people ought you to be in how you live your life?

We are to live lives of holiness and godliness…the two words together are shorthand for…”Live for the glory of God and the good of others.”

This is the summary of a faithful life…Love God, love people.

It is always the case in the New Testament that the reality of the end has moral implications.

The reality of return of Christ should lead to us becoming more like Christ…it should lead to godly confidence in the face of terrible human headlines…we should not be gripped with fear when we read the news…sadness maybe, but hope.

It should lead to hope in the face of personal suffering…not easy suffering, but hopeful, not hopeless suffering.

It should, above all, lead to long term faithfulness in our lives.

1 Cor 15 is an entire chapter about the future resurrection of our bodies…and the last verse in that theologically dense passage is this…

“Therefore, stand firm, let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that you labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

This is always the case in Scripture…faithful action follows true future vision.

Nasa Scientists say that our sun is halfway through its lifespan and in 5 billion years it will expand into a red giant and gobble up Mercury, Venus and probably earth.

Well, that’s quite a while in human lifespans…but atheist philosophers love to put humans in their place by saying telling us stuff like this and following on with…

“In the future your life will be forgotten as the meaningless blip in that it is. Nothing you do matters ultimately. Nothing and no none you love means anything ultimately…the cosmos doesn’t care.”

The final state of the cosmos will be cold, empty nothing…you don’t matter.

How is that for infusing people with a sense of meaning and a reason to live a life of moral excellence?

“You mean nothing…now, go live a thriving life!”

There are three inscriptions on some tombstones from antiquity that describe the three results of believing that human history is without ultimate meaning.

1. One tombstone expresses hedonism(do what you want with your body): ‘I was nothing; I am nothing; so, thou who art still alive, eat, drink, and be merry.”

2. One tombstone expresses Apathy(nothing matters in the end): ‘Once I had no existence; now I have none. I am not aware of it. It does not concern me.’

3. One tombstone expresses Despair: ‘ “What is below?” “Deep darkness.” “But what of the paths upward?” “All a lie” … “Then we are lost.” ’

William Barclay concludes, rightly, that without the truth, embodied in the second coming doctrine, that life is going somewhere, there is nothing left to live for.

History has a beginning and an end…and is directed by God…therefore what happens, what we do matters.


“Since there will be an end to the current cosmos , what kind of people ought you to be.

This is Peter’s way of saying, “What matters at the end matters now.”

To live as if things will not end.
To live as if things will end but it’s all blind undirected chance.

It to live a lie.

If contemplating the end of all things and the end of your own life is done rightly…the result is wisdom.

Increased love for God and others.

Better ethical, moral choices.

A missional life.

The delight of a smell…coffee, a flower, rain…matters

The delight of love and joy…in a relationship, to your child…matters.

The suffering we may endure and our final death…matters

The universe is said to be a “uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.”

The cosmos is like a giant watch that ticks away in predictable fashion and this giant watch is all that there is.

Now if you found a watch laying on the street, perfectly designed and keeping perfect time you would never assume it just “happened” to be there.

You would know it was designed by someone and it belonged to someone.

The universe is infinitely more complex than a watch.

It has been designed by God and it belongs to him.

Of course, we are a part of that universe and we are his possession.

Since God made the cosmos, it is not a closed system and he can intervene in anyway and at any time that he chooses.

We call these miracles. Miracles are not contrary to “science.”

Science is an attempt to understand the world as it is. The world is uniform in cause and effect, but it is not a closed system. God exists, the supernatural is real.

This is a “scientific” fact.

The greatest intervention into the universe was the incarnation.

God became man and dwelt among us. That same Lord Jesus will return someday. This is a settled fact.

Don’t be fooled by the steady “ticking” of the cosmic “clock.”

Sure, things go pretty much the same day after day, because that is how God has designed things to work.

But in his time, he will intervene again. You can count on it.

Let’s finish with Ps 90, the Psalm Peter quoted from and the Psalm from which I get, “What matters most at the end, matters most now.”

This is a prayer of Moses…imagine what he had seen and experienced.

From his life with God, he wrote this prayer.

I am going to pray it now as we close:

A prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—

6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.

8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.

10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, O Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.

16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.