Today is my mother-in-law’s birthday. She would be 88, but she stopped counting in 2003 when God took her home to live with Him. I was always a bit intimidated by her; she was always perfectly put together – hair, clothes, and the way she carried herself. She had strong opinions about the way things should be done, something to which I can relate, but she was always kind. I don’t remember her ever speaking a harsh or ugly word. She made the best cornbread. We spent many Saturday suppers around her table enjoying a simple feast of great northern beans that had cooked all day in the crockpot, fried potatoes, and macaroni-and-cheese. My girls ate their beans because they knew Grandmother had a closet full of Little Debbie cakes to choose from afterward. They agreed with Popie that you needed “a little something sweet” after every meal.
I remember one year after we were married, I picked out a set of placemats as a Christmas gift for Ruby. I still don’t have a lot of “design” taste, but this was the late eighties so the options were a lot different. These were so plain it’s kind of sad, a tan color made out of a polyester knit. Do you know, those placemats were still on the dining room table until a couple of years ago when Richard moved into an assisted living – years after she had passed away. I don’t know if she kept them because she actually liked them or was just kind to a daughter-in-law that tried to please her. She was definitely in the generation that keeps things as long as they have a useful life, so maybe she was just thrifty. For whatever reason, she valued them enough to keep them.
I’m reminded of Ruby because it’s her birthday, but also from the words I read this morning in 2 Peter. The thought occurs that if Ruby could talk to us, she would certainly give us the same instructions and admonition that Peter does. Peter was martyred during Nero’s reign (before AD 68). In this letter, he shares that Christ has made clear that his death is imminent; he is speaking from an eternal perspective knowing time is short. We can be assured that he’s going to use this opportunity to tell us the most critical and most important things, as it will likely be his last opportunity to encourage the churches.
Peter isn’t sharing anything that’s groundbreakingly new – it’s all teaching that his readers have heard before, but he doesn’t apologize for repeating himself. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder … and I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind (2 Peter 1:13,15). Prophetic truth does not diminish in importance, but it does increase in urgency the closer one draws to its fulfillment.
Peter also wasn’t sharing second-hand information; he was an eyewitness to Jesus. He stood on the mountain with James and John and saw the glory of Jesus revealed. He heard the voice of God affirming Him as His beloved Son. Peter’s words are credible, and we do well to heed them
2 Peter 1:19 – So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
In other words – pay attention…take heed…examine the Word…look at scripture, the prophecies, and the words of Jesus and the apostles until God turns on the light in your soul and you comprehend the truth! Don’t dismiss the hard things because you don’t understand them. Keep listening. Keep obeying. Keep looking up, anticipating those prophetic words to be fulfilled.
Peter’s message in this letter is pretty simple. Difficult times will come in the end, as apostasy, deception, and heresy creep into the church. People will be governed by sensuality as the world becomes enslaved to the ungodly behavior that masquerades as freedom. As believers, we have two responsibilities to fulfill as we wait for the return of our Lord and Savior.
First, we make sure of our own salvation and apply all diligence to our continued spiritual growth.
2 Peter 1:4-10 – For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior will be abundantly supplied to you.
Second, we live and speak and act with an urgency and an awareness of the coming day of the Lord, believing the prophets and the apostles and Jesus Himself.
2 Peter 3:1-2 – This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
Peter goes on to remind us of what those words are as he describes the judgment coming on the earth – something which will take place even as unbelievers mock God’s Word.
2 Peter 3:10-14 – 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. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 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! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.
I believe with all my heart that if any of our loved ones who have gone on to heaven ahead of us could give us some advice, it would be these same words. Time is short. The prophecies are being fulfilled. Jesus is coming soon – to call away those who are faithful to Him to heaven, and to judge the ungodly and unbelieving world that continues to reject Him. Wake up; pay attention; don’t let these words be meaningless but let them change the way you live.
Sometimes we treat God’s Word like those old placemats on Ruby’s table. We’ve stared at them so long it doesn’t even register that they are there, or more likely, we’ve discarded them as outdated in favor of something a bit flashier and more exciting. Instead, we need to value the truths of God’s Word because it still serves the same purpose – to stir up our hearts to live pleasing to our Father and to anticipate Jesus’ soon coming.
Ruby could tell us a thing or two about how accurate and important God’s Word is; she’s seeing it from a totally different perspective, and I would like to imagine she’s experiencing a heavenly sense of anticipation as Jesus gets ready to make His second appearance in our world. Like Peter, she wouldn’t have any problem reminding us of what we already know and urging us to pay attention.
Happy Birthday, Ruby. I know you’re not still counting the years, but we are, except we’re counting them down until we see you again.