2 Peter 3:8-15a
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
December 6, 2020
All of us are looking forward to better days ahead: maybe to the holidays, certainly to the end of this awful pandemic and, if we believe, to the end of this present evil age when Jesus returns to assert His rule on earth and set all things right.
Until those days arrive, our job as believers is, by faith, to reach into that great future and draw some of its reality into the present – by growing into, as our scripture puts it, “the sort of persons [we] ought to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness”.
We strengthen our prospects for growing in holiness and godliness by bearing in mind God’s gracious mercy and how He delays bringing about those better days for a good reason: to give people more time to come to their senses and turn to Him in obedient faith. For God does not want any to perish.
But His slowness about sending Jesus back to earth does not indicate any weakness in His intention to do so. Those better days ahead will surely arrive – albeit like a thief in the night. Though we cannot predict the time they will arrive, we can count on their coming, at some time or another, and our seeing this evil world “dissolved with fire” and replaced with a new and perfect world “where righteousness is at home”.
If we believe in this coming reality, we do well to reach into that blessed future and draw its righteousness into the present. We can do that by becoming people of deeper holiness and godliness!
Whatever else they might involve, holiness and godliness must involve integrity.
Today’s culture lacks integrity. One company recently reviewed 3.8 million background checks and found that over half of the job applicants had lied on their resumes. Professor Bella DePaulo discovered from her research that a third of Americans lie at least once a week to people close to them. Cheating, short-changing others, and trying to get away with selfish acts are also commonplace.
We forget, C.S. Lewis once noted, that our righteous heavenly Father is not an indulgent earthly grandfather who just chuckles with amusement over how “boys will be boys” and girls, girls. Our heavenly Father has high ambitions for us. He means for us to be as holy as He. Even if He doesn’t expect us to do it perfectly, He expects us to hold ourselves to His standards. In fact, the decisive sign of our following His Son is, not how exhilarated we feel in worship or how uplifted in prayer, but how committed we are in striving to imitate God’s righteousness.
Developing integrity is not something we can work on every now and then, like getting the bills paid by devoting an evening a month to the task. It is something we must pursue 24/7 because 24/7 we face innumerable insidious temptations to fudge on the standards of integrity, if for no better reason than that the fudging might be simply “convenient”.
It takes tenacious perseverance in a life-long process to become a person of integrity. It takes making righteousness our aim, and keeping it our aim by repeatedly choosing to fight for it.
When the evangelist Billy Sunday resolved to decisively repudiate sin, he said, “I’ll kick it as long as I have got a foot. I’ll hit it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And, when I’m old, footless, fistless and toothless, I’ll gum it until I go home to glory and it goes home to hell.”
To have that kind of determination to reach into the better days ahead and to become more and more the mightily magnificent men and women we are meant to be, we have to want it. And our “wanting it” is measured, not by the fervor of our feelings, but by the constancy of our decision-making and the solidity of our commitment to make any sacrifice necessary to satisfy its righteous requirements.
In 1912, Leon Leonwood Bean started a mail order business in Greenwood, Maine. He sold hunting boots, and vouched for their quality with an iron-clad, money-back guarantee. Defects in the design of his first boots, however, caused 90% of them to be returned. Making good on his guarantee threatened to ruin his newborn business; but Leon risked ruin to do the right thing. He returned people’s money, redesigned the boots, and tried again to offer a product of the highest quality. L.L. Bean is now one of America’s most successful mail-order companies, in large part because it has continued his tradition of doing one’s best and treating customers with integrity.
Let us reach into our better days ahead, when Christ comes the second time, and bring that future reality into our present reality by being “the sort of persons [we] ought to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness”.