Christ’s Coming Must Change Your Life
Christ’s return causes Christians to live different
2 Peter 3:11-18 Overview
What happens to you when you are driving along, and then by the side of the freeway you see him with his radar out. You know he’s waiting just for you. Or you’re driving at a busy time, traffic is fast and crazy–and then off the side, out of sight until you are just about to pass him is the motorcycle cop with his radar. How do you respond? Immediately, my heart skips a beat, my foot comes off the gas, sometimes jumps on the brake. I check my speed and usually grown out loud, “Oh no!” Potential judgment altered my immediate behavior.
As kids, the Mueller children were well-behaved, but normal little sinnerlings. But at Christmastime, we definitely lived a little better, a little nicer, and a little happier. Not merely because we were on winter break, but because we knew presents were on the line. Potential reward altered my immediate behavior. That is what the return of Christ is supposed to do for you and me. The fact that Christ is coming back in judgment and the fact that Christ is returning to evaluate His children for reward is to alter our immediate behavior.
Open your Bibles to 2 Peter chapter 3. We have studied the first half of the chapter, verses 1 to 10, which was focused on the certainty of the return of Christ and the foolishness of Second Coming views of the false teachers. Now we are at the second half of chapter 3, where Peter makes it very clear, the Second Coming is to radically change the way we live right now. And this morning I want to do a flyover. I want to study verses 11 to 18 all together, and then in our final weeks of 2 Peter dig out all the truth found in these verses.
Take a look at the chart in your outline. After our study of 2 Peter, we will take several weeks to explain God’s Word on the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Kingdom and the eternal state as a follow-up to chapter 3. The reason for this is Peter only focuses on Christ’s Second Coming, which occurs after the Rapture, after the Tribulation, and before the 1,000-year Kingdom. Paul and other New Testament writers teach us about the entire Day of the Lord, which includes a Rapture, Tribulation, Kingdom and Eternal State.
Though they are different, the Rapture and Second Coming are rightly viewed as two phases of the Second Coming. With the Rapture, the Church is suddenly caught up with Christ in the air. And at the Second Coming, Christ is seen by all, returning in glory, touching down on Earth to judge the planet and establish His physical kingdom on earth for a millennium.
The Lord’s literal return on Earth changes everything. His physical presence means incredible reward for those who are His children and horrifying punishment for all those who are not His born again family. And that very truth is to alter your everyday life at the office, at school, at home or on the road–at work or at play. Peter says in verses 11 to 18, everything must change.
Verse 11 is a loud fact which then is explained in the rest of the passage. Verse 11 is the summary statement which Peter expands upon in the remaining verses. What does Peter tell the churches in Asia they must not ignore? Verse 11 means this–Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return. Like the sermon title–Christ’s coming must change your life. Trusting Christ will return in the future will alter the way you behave today.
Following verse 11, Peter explains the differences the Holy Spirit will make in your life. As you live each day in light of Christ’s return, verses 12 to 18 inform you of eight major changes God will make in your life. Every Christian can experience these eight improvements. You will live more for eternity than for today, you will enjoy internal peace, be faithful to share the Gospel, grow more doctrinally astute, gain great biblical discernment, experience spiritual growth in maturity, and live in more continual praise. As you read these verses aloud with me, see if you can spot the changes Christ will make if you live each day in anticipation of Christ’s soon return.
Let’s read starting with verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
What is Peter’s main point? Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return. Christians will live holy in light of coming judgment. Believers will live less like the world and more like Christ, when they live knowing this world will be burned by Christ. Born again saints will make eternal choices over temporal choices, when they know—”But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
“Everything will be burned up but the fruits of godly living. A life lived for the world will go naked into judgment; a life lived for Christ will be laden with eternal riches” John Piper emphasizes. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last” (C.T. Studd). As Peter writes in chapter 3, he only deals with the fact of Christ’s coming and the effect on the world His return causes. In these verses, his picture of the end is very simple–fire will destroy the earth and everything on it (verse 10), and new heavens and a new earth will stand in their place (verse 13).
He doesn’t show how this picture relates to the personal coming of Christ, the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the judgment according to your life of service, or the only way people can find their way into the new heavens and new earth. The reason Peter was willing to settle for a simplified picture of the end was solely because the false teachers were maligning the truth of Christ’s coming so they could somehow think they were saved but not accountable to God. Peter was simply trying to rescue new converts from being lured into this heresy of no return.
You know what these false teachers were devoted to–they were devoted to the world. Chapter 2 taught us they distorted the doctrine of God’s grace and the New Testament teaching of spiritual freedom in order to justify their illicit sexual indulgence, their love of money, and their love for human praise. The lynch pin of their false argument was all based upon Christ not returning. If Christ does return, it would crush their devotion to the world. Therefore, it makes sense Peter would only focus on a one-sided answer–the world you love is going to burn.
So Christian, don’t give yourself over to the pleasures of the world. Don’t devote yourself to accumulating money. Don’t fall into living for your pleasures. Don’t spend your life building monuments for the praise of people. It is all going to burn. So verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
Verse 11 almost sounds like a question, but it is not–it is a statement. Peter is literally proclaiming, “How astonishingly excellent you ought to be.” Verse 11 is Peter giving you an exclamation of astonishment–a rhetorical device that does not expect a response. “How astonishingly excellent you ought to be.” In light of God’s promised coming judgment, Peter is challenging his readers to have their everyday lifestyle reflect their hope in Christ’s return. Peter knows–if you rightly anticipate the Second Coming, it will impact your daily behavior.
Peter adds in verse 11, “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” In light of God’s promised judgment, Peter challenged his readers to live each day in a manner which would prove their hope. God’s Word expects the anticipation of Christ’s return to impact your Monday through Saturday.
In verse 11, the word translated sort, “What sort of people ought you to be,” is also translated what kind of people or what manner of people. The Greek word sort literally means exotic, out of this world, foreign. Because you have, 2 Peter 1:4, “… escaped the corruption that is in the world …,” you must live differently from the people of this world. To them, you should look like a foreigner–why? Because this world is not your home. You are, 1 Peter 2:11, an “alien and stranger” headed for a better world, your heavenly home. Christians should live different–not odd. When you are different, you attract people–when you are odd, you repel them.
So Christ is returning to judge the world. When He comes, He will evaluate every person. You will stand before the righteous, sinless, omniscient God and He will lovingly x-ray every action, every thought and every motive of your life. How should you respond now? You will live (verse 11) holy and godly—”in holy conduct and godliness”.
Holiness–1 Peter 1:15 and 16, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” The word holy means to separate or to cut off. Israel was a holy nation because God called the Jews out from among the Gentiles and kept them separate. Christians are called out from the godless world around them and are set apart for God alone. The word godliness is the same word in 2 Peter 1:6 to 7–to worship well. It describes a person whose life is devoted to pleasing God. Godliness is pleasing God.
All believers know that it is possible to live separated from sin positionally, but not enjoy living for Christ personally. Christians can sometimes be glad they’re saved, but at the same time not be pursuing Christ from a heart of thankfulness and love. So Peter lists holiness and godliness. Holy conduct, which is external actions and behavior, like fleeing sin and avoiding worldliness–and godliness, which is internal heart attitudes and reverence, loving the Lord and seeking to please Him in all things.
Like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 10, “We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The truth of future reward and divine accountability transformed the way Paul lived on Earth.
Sometimes you can pick someone up from the airport and it is a duty–I gotta drive to San Diego, Ontario or the curse of all travel, LAX, and somehow connect with them, find them, load them in the car, then drag them home. Or you can pick up a spouse at the airport and you can’t wait to see them. You’re longing to catch up, talk, be reunited and hear all about their trip with joy. Peter says your anticipation of Christ’s return is not merely holy living–not sinning. But also includes a heart that longs for Christ with a thankful heart, seeking to please Him.
After Peter lists his summary statement in verse 11, how astonishingly excellent you ought to be–Peter then describes how believers will live different in light of Christ’s coming. The Second Coming of Christ will change the way you live in eight different ways. Let’s celebrate a flyover of each one, then dig out the joy of each one in weeks to come. In what way will your school, your job, your home, your marriage, your parenting, service, giving, living and heart radically change because of Christ’s soon return? You will start . . .
#1 Living for ETERNITY–Longingly
Read verses 12 and 13, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
The key word in this entire section is look–and you see it in verses 12, 13 and 14. It means to await eagerly or to be expectant. You find the same Greek word “looking” in Luke 3:15, “Now while the people were in a state of expectation,” and Acts 3:5, “expecting to receive something from them.” Looking describes an attitude of excitement and anticipation as you wait for the Lord’s return. Because you realize this world will be dissolved and that even the very elements will be disintegrated, you fix your hope not on anything in this world, but only on the Lord Jesus Christ. What you see around you is all gonna burn.
And because you don’t know the day or the hour of our Lord’s return, you must be continually ready–because when you stop looking for your (Titus 2:13) “blessed hope”, when you stop daily anticipating His return, when you slow expecting His coming, then you will slowly watch your heart grow cold, your love for this world to increase and find yourself sliding into an unfaithful life of compromise. Notice verse 12 is Christians looking for the day when this world is destroyed and verse 13 is looking for the new heavens and new earth.
Verse 12 is judgment and verse 13 is reward. Verse 12 is negative and temporal and verse 13 is positive and eternal. Verse 12 is warning and verse 13 is promise. Not only does Peter motivate you negatively with coming judgment in verse 12. Not only does God want you to know that every material item on this planet, including your home, your money, your computer, your possessions, your clothes—all will be burned, so now you can come to grips with how foolish it is to live for this temporary world.
But you will be positively motivated by your eternal home, verse 13, as God showcases the new heaven and new earth. God will create a totally new universe. The word new means new in quality, different, or unlike anything you have ever known or imagined. Peter says this new realm of verse 13 is where righteousness dwells. Dwells means to settle down and be at home, or to take up permanent, comfortable residence. In God’s new order, righteousness will enjoy a permanent, perfect existence, with you and in you forever. Believers who anticipate the Second Coming will turn their focus from this world to live for their eternal, future home. How else will anticipation of His return change your life?
#2 Living with Great PEACE—Diligently
They go fast now, don’t panic. Verse 14, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace.” Peter is talking to Christians here, since He calls them ”beloved”. So the apostle says, “Since you are looking for the end of this temporary world and anticipating the start of a brand new eternal world, you will live forever in peace, then I command you to live diligent, live zealously, live with intense desire–expectantly live in peace right now.”
Make certain when Christ returns He finds you aggressively pursuing peace. When you’re born again, you’re instantly at peace between you and your God. And that peace becomes more and more prevalent in your life as you live by His Spirit. Jesus says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
And Paul says in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is peace.” Peter is describing the kind of peace that banishes earthly worries, illuminates the worry over punishment for sin, and stops all worry over eschatological judgment. This peace comes from knowing for certain your sins are completely forgiven, and that no matter how terrible life becomes as human history moves toward final destruction, believers who live in anticipation of Christ’s coming will live with a settled peace. And once you start daily hoping for Christ’s return, you will begin . . .
#3 Living for Christlike PURITY—Genuinely
Verse 14 ends with “spotless and blameless”. Listen to John Calvin pose this question. “It may be asked, how anyone can be found blameless by Christ, when we all labor under so many deficiencies. But Peter here only points out the mark at which the faithful ought all to aim, though they cannot reach it, until having put off their flesh they become wholly united to Christ.”
The promise of Christ’s return serves as a powerful incentive for believers to live a spotless character and a blameless reputation. Spotless describes Christian character, the kind of people believers really are. And blameless describes Christian reputation, the kind of righteous people others perceive them to be–because they are. These qualities are in contrast to the false teachers who Peter calls not spotless, but stains–and not blameless, but blemishes. There are some who attend church whose lives are neither blameless nor spotless.
And the Bible teaches that any who are characterized by ongoing sinful lifestyles will not inherit eternal life. Jesus says in Matthew 7:23, “You who practice lawlessness, I never knew you.” But here, Peter emphasizes that future accountability and heavenly reward motivate believers, young and old, to continually forsake sin and obey God’s Word in their daily life. They live for Christ purely.
#4 Living for the Faithful PROCLAMATION of the Gospel—Evangelistically
Verse 15, “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” Verse 15 here is connected to verse 9, do you remember that sweet verse? Verse 9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” The Lord only delays His return in order to save the remainder of His elect. The Lord is waiting for all His chosen family to have time to come to salvation in Christ through repentance.
So now in verse 15, Peter takes it a step further. Not only should you be joyful that God was patient and waited for you to be born, then born again–rejoicing that He is daily adding to His family until it is complete. But now in verse 15, Peter does not want you who have been saved, you who God was patiently waiting for, you who are now part of His family, to grow idle, or to isolate yourself from society, or be indifferent to the plight of those who are lost, or to be so consumed with thoughts of the future, you forget about your essential spiritual responsibility to share the Gospel with the lost in the present.
God’s judgment has not yet come. His wrath had not yet been poured out. There was still time to proclaim the good news to the lost. So in verse 15 Peter commands his readers to regard, to consider the Lord’s patience as a charge to you to continue in the ministry of reconciliation–to reach others with the life-giving truth of the Gospel. To live for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel every day. If you live in the reality of Christ’s soon return, you will share the Gospel with the lost.
#5 Living for Doctrinal CLARITY—Wisely
Verses 15 and 16, “Just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
By the time Peter wrote 2 Peter, Paul had written all his New Testament letters and was martyred. There is a good possibility Paul’s letters were already collected together and distributed to first century churches. The readers of 2 Peter had received Paul’s letters and read Paul’s detailed descriptions of future events. Some of Paul’s instructions were difficult (but not impossible) to interpret. But regardless, Peter used Paul as a support for his teaching.
Because Paul is so detailed on the end times, with his teaching containing some verses which are difficult to interpret, the false teachers purposely distorted them to make them say what they wanted, and not what God intended to say. The original meaning was lost. They made the Bible say what they wanted, and not taught what God meant.
Peter says they not only distort Paul’s writings, but they malign the rest of the Scripture. Peter ends verse 16 reminding you that using the Bible for your own purposes will result in your eternal destruction. By distorting the Scriptures, the false teachers were simultaneously securing their own destruction, as well as the spiritual demise of their followers. That is why you must strive for doctrinal clarity today. The only hope you have in parenting is for you parents to live the Bible as your absolute authority and to teach your children to follow its teachings as written the rest of their lives. As you anticipate the Lord’s soon return, you must grow doctrinally tough. That’s why Peter warns his beloved readers next to guard themselves.
#6 Living for Biblical DISCERNMENT—Guardedly
Verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” Since Christians know there will be false teachers who will appear, twisting and distorting the Scriptures, they should be all the more on their guard. The prince of preachers, Spurgeon said it this way, “Guard yourselves. This warning word needs to be spoken today with much earnestness. Beware of many of the books that are given to you to read. Beware of much of the teaching that is rife in the present day. Beware of the example of some who are called Christians. Beware of the deceitful talk of some who would make a gain of you and lead you away from Christ. Beware, above all, of yourself: beware of leaning on your own understanding, beware of giving the reins to your own will, beware of trusting in your own grace, and believing that you are beyond the gunshot of the enemy.”
The Greek verb guard is a middle present, meaning continually be guarding yourself. Hey, Peter’s readers knew the truth, just like many of you. But Peter warns them anyway, because knowledge alone was not a sufficient protection. They had to be alert, keep watch like a guard over a dangerous prisoner.
It is easy for believers who have a knowledge of the Bible to grow overconfident and to forget one of the most important warnings in the New Testament. First Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” While you are earnestly looking for Christ, keep one eye open to prevent being influenced/deceived by sneaky, subtle error, taught by charismatic teachers who will cause you to begin to waver, doubt, and be less certain in your faith. But what will the greatest fruit in your life be as you daily wait for Christ?
#7 Living for Spiritual GROWTH—Progressively
Verse 18a, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter ends 2 Peter the same way he began it–to grow, to mature. Pursuing Christian maturity and a deepening knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will lead to doctrinal stability and prevent any Christian from being led astray. And anticipating a meeting with Christ face-to-face will cause you to want to learn more about Him. And that intimacy only comes through growth.
So Peter commands you in verse 18 to continually pursue Christlikeness and spiritual growth. Peter wants each of you to no longer have to be fed like an infant, but to grow, meaning to increase or to advance–implying, learn to feed yourself. Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children. They in turn feed on Scripture and commune with Christ, thereby increasing in their knowledge of Him.
Physical growth and spiritual growth follow pretty much the same pattern–we grow from the inside out. In 1 Peter he described you, “as newborn babes”. Then, just like Peter began this letter with 2 Peter 1:3 telling you each child of God is born with all you need for growth and service–all you need is the spiritual food and exercise that will enable you to develop. And if you’re watching for Christ, you will pursue growth. And what is the result of spiritual growth? Seeking to glorify God.
#8 Living for Continual PRAISE—Worshipfully
Verse 18b, “To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Peter closes this great letter calling believers to worship and adore Christ. Like Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” First Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” You and I are to give Christ all the glory–both now, in the present, and in eternity. Christians will live godly in anticipation of Christ’s soon return.
Right now, look at your outline–look at all eight results of longing for Christ to return. Which one of them did the Holy Spirit target in your life? Which one? Which one did the Lord most convict for you to repent and take dependent steps? Which one of those truths was burning a hole in your heart–and the only way you can worship Christ is to cry out to Him to empower you to change? The Spirit of God wants you to become like Christ.
And if few or none of those truths from these verses convicted you, then quite possibly you need to cry out to Christ to change your heart, forgive your sins, and give you new life, salvation, in Christ. The Spirit of God wants you to come to Christ. Let’s pray.