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HYMN Higher Ground
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till rest I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.
Children’s Address. What is heaven?
Song. When we all get to heaven
- Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace;
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!
- While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when trav’ling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.
- Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.
- Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
READING 2 Peter 3:10-18
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
There is a repeated question throughout Scripture: Are You Ready? In fact, one of the major teachings of Jesus was – you need to BE READY!
You will remember Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins. Jesus closed the parable with these words: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (From the story found in Matthew 25:1-13)
Again and again, Jesus warned us … BE READY!
In our text today, Peter tells us that very same message in vv 10 and 11.
The day of the Lord will come … like a thief. And when that happens, there will be no more time to prepare. If you’re NOT ready, that ship will have sailed, and there won’t be another one, ever!
Let’s say a very wealthy person approaches you and says that he wants to send you on a 2 week trip to someplace you’ve always wanted to go to – all expenses paid. (Would you like that – assuming there was no Covid?).
There’s only one catch – because of the paperwork in lining up the trip he can’t tell you exactly when you’ll be leaving. It’s gonna be in the next few months. AND when he calls you may only have a few hours to get down to the Airport and catch your flight.
It is inconvenient… but you really want to go. So how are you going to prepare for this trip? Well – you might have to clear things down at the office, or wherever you have commitments for the next few weeks. You’ll have to check your passport. You’ll have to get vaccinations. You’ll have to ask someone to take care of your pets and look after your mail. And then you’re going to pack your suitcase.
When are you going to start preparing for this free trip?
Not later, because you don’t know when you’ll have to leave and if you want to get on that plane you better prepare now!!!! You realise – if you’re not ready, you’re not going.
And that’s what Peter is telling us. Prepare NOW!!! Because if you’re not prepared, you’re not going.
But, how do you prepare for this trip – this trip to heaven? Well, you don’t have to get a passport or vaccinations, and you don’t have to have anyone take care of your pets or your mail. And the suitcase isn’t going to do you any good (you’re not going to be able to take anything with you).
But Peter does tells us HOW we should prepare.
FIRSTLY he says (to be ready to go) we need to be holy and godly. Now, what does that mean?
Well, it’s not that hard. Holy means “set apart” and godly means you live for God. If you put those two together, Peter’s telling us to set ourselves apart (from world) to live for God.
It’s that simple. At least… in principle it is.
You see, a lot of people struggle with that idea because they love the things of this world more than they love God. One of the saddest statements in the Gospels tells us that: “… many even of the authorities believed in (Jesus), but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:42-43
I read an article from exactly 3 years go about the S. Pacific island of Tonga. Something severed the internet cable to the island. And the title of the article read “Tonga sent back to ‘dark ages’ after underwater Internet cable severed.” It’s affected their e-mails, airline bookings, university enrolment, wiring of money and has prevented businesses from processing credit and debit cards.
It has literally thrown that small country into chaos … all because they depended upon that cable for their daily lives. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/tonga-sent-back-to-dark-ages-after-underwater-internet-cable-severed)
So… what do you depend upon for your daily life? Do you depend on the approval or others OR God? If it came down to a choice of whether you lost the approval of others OR… if you lost the approval of God… which would you choose?
Now, that may sound kind of harsh, but listen to these words of Jesus: “32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33
The Apostle John writes: “15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15
That’s what it means to live a life of holiness and godliness. To be so much in love with God that it doesn’t matter what others think. You are going to set yourself apart for him!!!
So, FIRSTLY – to prepare yourself for Heaven… you need to set yourself apart from world and follow God.
SECONDLY, Peter tells us (vv 13-14) that we should make every effort to be found spotless and blameless!! Holiness and godliness speaks about WHO we’re committed to. We set ourselves apart to follow God.
This is all about HOW we should behave as people who follow God. The spots and blemishes are the sins we commit. The things we SAY, DO, and THINK. We’re all going to mess up once in a while but we should never accept our sins as normal.
None of us likes splashing pour food on our clean white clothing. Sensible people try to get it off as quickly as possible.
That’s the difference between those who are committed to Jesus and those who aren’t. Those who AREN’T committed to Jesus tend to ignore the spots and blemish of their lives. But those who love Jesus aren’t satisfied with just allowing the lives to permanently be part of their lives. They refuse to make excuses, they refuse to try and hide the sin. When they sin they want the spot removed from their souls. But what do we use for a “stain remover.”? Well, if you don’t belong to Christ, the first step is become a Christian – believe in Christ, repent of your sins, confess Jesus as your Lord and Master.
But if you’re already a Christian and you’ve sinned? Well, you turn to I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness...” God calls on us to CONFESS our sins, and He will be faithful to remove them for us.
All God asks is that we admit we’ve fallen short… then He removes the stain and we start all over again with a new “shirt.”
So FIRSTLY – (in order to prepare ourselves for our trip to Heaven) we need to set ourselves apart from this world to follow God. And SECONDLY – we strive to remove the stains of sin from our lives.
Lastly, Peter warns us to be careful not to lose our “STABILITY.” Look at verses 16 and 17.
You would think that if somebody quotes the Bible you could trust them. But that’s not always true. Peter WARNS us here that there are people out there who will warp and twist the Bible so it says what THEY want it to say. Remember… it’s ONLY in the Bible that we learn about righteousness. And about God’s will for our lives. And about Jesus and WHO He is and WHAT He’s done for us. When these folks undermine God’s Word they are trying to weaken our faith and our confidence.
Don’t let them do that!
The story is told of a man who rushed railroad train station one morning and, almost out of breath, asked the ticket agent: “When does the 8:01 train leave?” “At 8:01,” was the answer. “Well,” the man replied, “it is 7:59 by my watch, 7:57 by the town clock, and 8:04 by the station clock. Which am I to go by?” “You can go by any clock you wish, but you cannot go by the 8:01 train – it’s already left.”
Be ready! Because if you’re not ready, you’re not going. That’s why the Bible stresses the importance of making your decision to follow Jesus. As it says in II Corinthians: I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2)
Hymn We’re marching to Zion
- Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne.
We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.
- Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heav’nly King
May speak their joys abroad.
- The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.
- Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.