Text: 2 Peter 3
Chicken Little was a little chick with a credibility problem. Having been hit on the head by a hexagonal something-or-other, he became convinced that the sky was falling. But the others scoffed. As far as they were concerned, he had been hit by nothing more than a falling acorn.
What would Jesus say to Chicken Little? What is it like to persist with an unpopular message? At least Chicken Little had the guts to ring that bell. Do we really believe that we have a message about what the future holds? Are we so afraid of ridicule and rejection that we don’t even make the attempt to warn people? Or is our behaviour so inconsistent with our belief, that what we do shouts so loud that people cannot hear what we are saying?
What future event is spoken of? V4, 7, 10, 12
How is it described? V7, 10, 12,
When will it take place?
People tend to hold very different ideas about where the world is going. The modern view was that the story is one of ceaseless human progress. The post-modern view is that there is no big story at all, no meta-narrative, each of us has to make up his or her own story as we go along.
The Biblical view is that history is moving forward towards a divinely-ordained conclusion. Many people today regard this with deep suspicion. You’re allowed to have a private, personal, relativised spirituality. But to announce anything as public, universal and absolute is asking to be called a bigot or a fool. No wonder sceptics gather now, as they did in Peter’s day.
What do the scoffers say is the reason for their scepticism? V4
They say God’s promise has failed; that nothing has changed since the days of the patriarchs. But they fail to reckon that the God who has promised the make a new heaven and earth is the same God who already made the old heaven and earth. They forget that that the God who has said that he will judge the world with fire is the same God who has already judged it with a deluge. Nothing much has happened since the days of the patriarchs? What else have they forgotten?
What is the real reason behind their scepticism? v3, 5
Not all objections to Christian faith are honest and sincere. When a person claims that ‘all roads lead to God’, what they may mean is, ‘it suits me to believe that all roads lead to God. When an individual says, ‘I can’t believe that a God of love would let anyone suffer eternal punishment,’ the sub-text might be, ‘I don’t want to believe that a God of love would let anyone suffer eternal punishment.’ When these scoffers said, ‘Jesus won’t return,’ what they really meant was, ‘We don’t want him to return.’ Some problems and questions are sincere. But others are not.
This is born out in the way that Jesus dealt with questions and objections. Have you noticed that he hardly ever gave a straight answer to a question?
“Rabbi, we have a question for you.” – “First, let me ask you a question.”
“Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” – “Neither.”
“Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” – “Why do you call me good?”
Like our Lord, we need to learn the gentle art of dealing with the question behind the question. A Christian was once attempting to answer the objections of a sceptic. In the end, the questioner agreed that some good evidences had been presented. “So now will you commit your life to Jesus Christ?” Answer – “No, because frankly, it would mess up my lifestyle.” It’s so difficult to believe because it’s so difficult to obey.
What is the attitude of God towards the scoffers? V9, 15
The reason for the delay is not that God has overslept, or has changed his mind. He is being patient. I wonder if you have ever had the experience of an unsatisfactory situation at work: people not pulling their weight, mistakes being made, important things being forgotten. You warn, guide, encourage. Finally, the time comes when you say, ‘That’s it. Enough is enough.’
So let us not presume upon God’s patience. ‘All the while thou delayest, God is more provoked, the wicked one more encouraged, thy heart more hardened, they debts more increased, thy soul more endangered, and all the difficulties of conversion more and more multiplied upon thee, having a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in’ (George Swinnock).
What difference should all this make to us in the week ahead? V11, 12, 14, 17, 18
Live holy and godly lives. Our lives will be ‘godly’ if, like God himself, we adopt an attitude of love and compassion towards those who do not yet know him.
Look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. How often do you think about the return of Christ? ‘Anthony Ashley Cooper was elected to Parliament in 1826, aged 25. First in the House of Commons, and then in the House of Lords as the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, he concerned himself successively with the plight of the mentally ill, child workers in the factories and mills, chimney sweeps, women and children in the mines, and the children of the slums, more than 30,000 of whom in London were without a home, and more than a million of whom in the whole country were without schooling. His biographer concludes “No man has ever done more to lessen the extent of human misery, or to add to the sum total of human happiness.”‘ Shaftesbury said near the end of his life, ‘I do not think that in the last forty years I have lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.’
Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. If parents left their teenage children at home for a few days, and said, “We’ll be back on Sunday evening, 9.30 sharp,” then there it might well be that the washing-up, the vacuuming, and binning of the Coke cans and crisp wrappers would be left until 9.25. If, however, the parents said, “We’re going away, but we could be back at any time,” then there would be a better chance that the house wouldn’t be trashed in the first place.
Be on your guard. The whole purpose of 2 Peter is to warn believers against false teachers who, amongst other things, mock the prospect of Christ’s return. A big part of the antidote is ‘the ministry of reminding’. 1:12 – ‘I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.’ 3:1 – ‘Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders.’ 3:2 – ‘I want you to recall…’ 3:17 – ‘Since you already know this, be on your guard.’ There’s quite a lot a re-thinking going on in Christian circles today about the doctrine of God, about the person and work of Christ, and about the teaching of St Paul. Let’s listen carefully to new ideas, but be prepared, too, to reminded one another of old truths.
What would Jesus say to Chicken Little?
Don’t be chicken, be bold, for God will fulfil his promise.
Cry ‘foul!’ to those scoffers who are merely trying to hide a bad conscience.
Above all, set a good eggsample by living a holy and godly life that commends the gospel, as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.
And there you have it in a nutshell – or, if you prefer, an eggshell.