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Time Sensitive Material

December 4th 2011 by Joshua Simons

Advent turns our attention to the coming of our Lord, Jesus. Not simply as a baby in the manger at Christmas, but also His coming on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Peter's Words in the Epistle lesson today reminds us, however, that Christ delays His coming so that more might hear the Gospel and be saved. As we await that day, He gives us the privilege of taking part in His mission to seek and save the lost. Read to find out more.....

Advent 2B - "TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL" - 2 Peter 3:8-14 - December 4, 2011

We’ve all received them – an envelope or package in the mail labeled with that vital notice . . . TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL. In my experience though, this usually means I need to get it into the garbage as fast as I can because there’s nothing of true substance inside.

However, sometimes the package is important. “Time sensitive material” can appear on bills or important legal documents. In these cases, it is good that the notice is given so the package doesn’t get set aside and ignored. And when you open the package, the notice is completed as a deadline is given. For whatever action is required, you know exactly how much time you have.

We don’t often enough view it in such terms, but the gospel is also “time sensitive material”. All human beings are given this life to receive Christ as their Savior so they can escape eternal damnation in hell and secure eternal life in heaven. And time expires for every person in this earthly life; either we die or Christ returns.

And there is no deadline given. We don’t open the package and see exactly how much time we have. We don’t know when we will die; we don’t know when those around us will die; and we don’t know when Christ will return. This should cause us to see the great urgency in spreading the gospel.

Because the gospel is the only real life saver . . . meaning the state of our eternal life is more important than the state of our temporal life. EMT’s and doctors may revive a person and we rejoice that a life was saved, but someday that person will still die an earthly death. The real question is whether they are spiritually dead or alive . . . whether they will suffer eternal death, meaning eternal separation from God Almighty or receive eternal life, meaning eternal presence with God Almighty.

And where they spend eternity depends on whether they have faith . . . whether they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . whether they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose three days later. So there is most certainly urgency for spreading the gospel message, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But do we treat it as such? Do we take advantage of the time given to us? Or do we take for granted the time given to us?

In our epistle lesson today, St. Peter talks about time. He first speaks about God’s relationship to time, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Sounds confusing. We must understand that this is not an equation fit for speculation. It tells us that God is eternal; he exists outside of time; and that he does not view this world in terms of time.

What that means and how it works doesn’t make any sense to us. But it does however describe our “hidden” God. Not that God hides from us, but that some of his attributes are beyond our comprehension. And that’s a good thing. It’s comforting. As Paul praised in his letter to the Romans, chapter 11 verse 33 – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

If we are to trust the incomprehensible goodness and perfection of God, we must accept in humility that we cannot understand him and all his ways. No peace is found in a god that fits the human framework for comprehension. Because our sinful minds are only capable of understanding a god with flaws. So we rejoice that God doesn’t make sense to us. Only a God beyond our imagination is capable of fulfilling the promises given in scripture.

And even though the depth of God is unreachable for us and beyond our imagination, God does graciously reveal himself in ways that bring us to salvation, that bring us back to him.

In this Advent season we celebrate God coming to us . . . as one of us . . . in the person Jesus Christ. Jesus set aside his throne of glory to become less “hidden”, to reveal God’s love to us personally. He set aside his throne of glory to become a helpless infant, dependent on Mary and Joseph, people he created. He set aside his throne of glory to walk on earth as a man and to eventually suffer a criminal’s death on the cross . . . all for us. God, whose glory is unreachable for us, reaches out and brings us back to him, for the sake of his Son, Jesus.

Peter speaks of this good work of the Lord in terms of time once again. God, who exists outside of time, has given us time for the purpose of saving. Verse 9 from our text – 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.

Sin has caused this world to doubt and mistrust God. It has been around 2000 years since Jesus walked among us. And only God knows how much longer it will be until he returns. In the meantime, the world sees God as “absent”. People feel alone and therefore put their trust in what they can “see”. Call it what you want – pick any false religion – they all fall under the same category. Rather than trusting God, mankind trusts himself, and in turn creates gods that he can understand. But they fail to see the hopelessness and limits of an invented god. They fail to see that there’s nothing of substance inside that package.

I recently came across a $5 bill on which someone had crossed out “God” in “In God we trust”. It may seem like a small thing, but what despair that person is in. And the most poignant thing about it was that nothing was put in to replace “God”. So it just read “In [blank] we trust.” If our trust is not in God, nothing and no one can fill the void. And that emptiness leads to damnation. Many people in this world are in that state.

So as Peter speaks of God granting time that all should be saved, we as his Church hear a deafening call to bring Jesus, God revealed, to desperate mankind. Mankind, imprisoned by sin, succumbing to the lies of the devil, looks to himself for the sustaining of life rather than God. How important for the Church, established by the Author of Life, to connect people to Jesus. How important for the Church to show the world that God comes to us daily, that he is present with us now through Word and Sacrament. How important for the Church to deliver the life saving “time sensitive material” of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each Christmas break, I dedicate 10 plus hours to watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In one of my favorite scenes, Frodo, the unlikely ring bearer, laments the burden of his overwhelming mission, saying to Gandalf, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened.” Gandalf wisely responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil . . . and that is an encouraging thought.” Gandalf is right.

Peter essentially poses the same challenge in verse 11 of our text – Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness? So what do we decide to do with the time that is given to us?

And I ask this question not in the context of, “are we telling others about Jesus?” but rather, “are we preparing ourselves to tell others about Jesus?” God will provide opportunities to witness; but bricks can’t be added to a building that has no foundation. We are to be prepared. As Peter says in his first epistle, chapter 3 verse 15, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

How is our walk of faith? How connected to Jesus are we? Is church just something we do on Sunday, or even less? Or do we grow in faith each day of the week as we water our faith with the Living Word of God, going to him in prayer and devotion. Do we take our troubles to him in prayer or do we try to handle everything on our own? Do we confess our sins before God each night and receive his forgiveness? How often do we focus on God each day – knowing, feeling, understanding, and responding to his love, grace, and forgiveness in our daily life? Are we mindful of God’s presence all day every day or do we just go about our business, “doing our thing”?

How grave a sin it is to think or act as though God’s love, grace, and forgiveness only apply to us in certain ways on certain days. How grave a sin it is to say that a certain devotional doesn’t apply to us; to say that a certain Bible class doesn’t apply to us; to say that we just don’t have time to spend in God’s Word; or that coffee/donuts/conversation/running errands are more interesting or more important than studying God’s Word. What a grave sin it is to decide for ourselves when God is relevant. We sin all the time and live in a perpetually sinful world. God’s love, grace, and forgiveness are always, and in every way, relevant and effective. In God we trust. Do we know it? Do we show it?

Who are we as Christians? What is our faith? Is it just a part of our life, or is it the foundation of our life? It ought to be the latter. That is the holiness and godliness of which Peter speaks. And it is only achieved by coming to our Lord in humility and repentance; bringing nothing of our own, depending wholly on him. We submit to his grace and he gives us life – new birth . . . new life in him.

And the real point is this. The time given to us is to be spent as his witnesses so that all should reach repentance. But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If we are not connected to Christ, then we are not equipped to connect others. If Christ is not our foundation, then no living stones are given to build the Church. If Christ is not our vine, then we bear no good fruit. If Christ is not our light, then we are dim before the world.

Jesus is life and he desires the world to see him through us. We love as he loved us. We carry God’s Word, physically, and in our hearts, that the “time sensitive material” of the gospel may be delivered. In his time, God sent his Son to us as one of us that he would die on the cross for our sins and be raised from the dead three days later. This was done that those who believe will be saved. In his time, Jesus will come again in great glory and might. All things will be made new and perfect.

In our time, given by God, he comes to us now in love, grace, and forgiveness. He calls us to be his children and to show his love, grace, and forgiveness to others. He calls us to deliver the life saving “time sensitive material” of the gospel to those who don’t know.
The clock is ticking.
Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, Amen.

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