Tony Evans - Living in Light of Eternity
I am seeking to for me, you, and us to make a radical shift in your expectation, which will create a radical shift in our behavior and be transforming for our lives. The principle that we are sharing with you is simply this: The greater your expectation is of heaven, the better life you'll have on earth. The lower your expectation is of heaven, the lower will be your life on earth. Because expectations affect behavior.
And what Peter wants to teach the ones he's writing to, which includes us, is that if you really want to live life on earth in the way it ought to be lived and maximize it, you must learn to live it with eternity in mind. He writes to those who are to read his epistle. Because many of us live in defeat in time because of poor expectations about eternity. So, if I could, by the Holy Spirit's help, make that bigger and make this life smaller, see, 'cause the problem is this life is bigger, and the life to come is smaller. So, we throw all of our marbles in the time basket because we miss the eternity basket. We throw all of our marbles in history because we miss heaven. We can reverse that, we can shift the focus, we can transform the life.
That's what Peter wants to argue. The first thing that Peter says, the first of three things, is to develop this eternal perspective, you and I are going to have to learn to live in light of God's Word. He speaks about the writing that has come beforehand, verse 2, from the prophets, in the New Testament from the apostles, and he says, "I want you to know this first". So, let's put this out front. That you will live in a time of mockery. Mockers will come. These mockers - a mocker is a person who makes light of something that's serious. And they will raise the challenge according to verse 4, "Where is the promise of his coming"? He says, "Now you need to understand, first of all, that one of the primary motivations for this challenge being raised is so that they are free to live any kind of life they want to live". He says, "Following after their own lust".
In other words, the more they can dismiss the eternal, the more they free themselves up to unrighteousness in the present. 'Cause if I can get God off of my mind, and if I can get eternity so far out there that it's vague to me, then I don't have to be concerned with how I live. The closer heaven becomes, the more concerned I have to be about my life decisions, choices, and priorities. But the further I can push it off, the less I need to worry about it. What the enemy does is make this world bigger and the world to come smaller so I can do what I want to do and not have to worry about it, so that I can follow after my own lust, do my own lifestyle the way I want to do it. It's a form of deism.
And so, what these people do and what we do is we do enough God to cover our bases. We do enough God to cover our back, just in case. When your professors in your secular universities, and sometimes even in the religious ones, when they deny the eternal while they seek to promote the scientific, it says when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the Word of God the heavens existed, long ago they were formed, and the world was then destroyed and all of its surrounding water. He says two things. They have forgotten or have rejected the fact that God himself intervened for them even to have an earth and a universe to extract natural laws from. That creation itself shows that God intervenes in history. Things are sourced in a reality beyond the thing itself. And he says they willingly reject that, why? Because they don't want any interference in their life decisions.
'Cause, see, if you take God seriously, now you got to do something with what he wants. So, you keep him vague or even deny him altogether so you don't have to be accountable to him. He says not only is it reflected in creation, he says it's also reflected in judgment. By the Word, his Word, the present heavens and earth are reserved from fire. Coming out of verse 6, which says the world at that time was destroyed. It's talking about Noah and the flood.
Let's rehearse Noah. God comes to Noah and says, "Noah, I want you to do something that's getting ready to sound ridiculous. I want you to build a boat on dry land 'cause it's going to rain". Now, what you have to know, in case you didn't know it, it is that up to this point it has never rained. The earth had never seen rain. The Bible says the earth was watered from beneath, so the waters came from beneath. There was a canopy over the earth that held the waters up there separate from the waters that came underneath, so they had never seen rain.
So, God's Word came about a subject that was not his experience. Oh, by the way, many things in God's Word will contradict your experience. "So, Noah, you're going to have to build a boat looking like a fool on dry land simply because my word told you to. That you have no other basis for doing it other than you've heard the word of the Lord". The Bible says Noah was a preacher of righteousness. So, he and his family are building a boat during the day. During the evening, he's going out preaching.
It's a real short sermon, three words, "It's gonna rain". It ain't that deep, it's gonna rain. And nobody believed him for 120 years. And all he had to go on and all he had to tell his family was, "Folks, I know, I know, I know it sounds crazy, I know we look ridiculous, but sometimes in obeying God's Word, you're going to look like a fool". 'Cause it goes against the culture, it goes against the standard, it goes against what everybody else thinks and what everybody else says. That calls into question in our minds and heart, and most certainly in our society. But the eternal perspective says that God's Word is true even though I don't see it happening right now. Because he's intervened in the past.
My greatest concern is that you are a Christian and know of your salvation. Jesus Christ died on the cross in your place as your substitute to pay for your sins in order to give you eternal life. He has to give it away; it can't be earned. So, if you will go to Jesus Christ now, acknowledge your need for a Savior because you recognize you are a sinner, and then place your trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life, he will grant that to you right here, right now. Go to him and simply say, "Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. I recognize I need a Savior. I'm trusting you alone to be that Savior. Enter my life now. Cleanse me, forgive me, and give me the eternal life you promised". Do that and you're on your way to heaven.
Noah could live a different kind of life, because he was looking at a different kind of Word. Secondly, we are to live in light of God's perspective. Verses 8 and 9, "Don't let this one fact escape your notice, beloved Christians, that with the Lord, one day is like 1.000 years and 1.000 years is like one day". Wow. Here's our problem. We live life linearly. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, linearly from this point to this point, to this point, to this point. We move from seconds to minutes to hours to days to months to years. We move linearly from point A to point Z.
So, that's how we measure time. Time is only meaningful because of linear movement. However, God does not operate by linear time. In other words, he transcends time, which is why the Bible calls him the eternal God. We live in three phases: what was, what is, and what is to come. Those are our three phases of our linear lives, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That's how we live our lives, because we live in time. God transcends that because he only exists in the present. God does not have a yesterday and he does not have a tomorrow. He communicates to us that way because we do have a yesterday and we do have a tomorrow, but he does not. Everything is now.
When Moses said, "When I go to your people, they're going to ask me who sent me. Who shall I tell them sent me"? God said, "You tell them, I am that I am sent you". I personal pronoun, am present tense, defined by I personal pronoun, am present tense. I am that I am. In other words, the personal God who forever lives in now. God only knows now. Now, I know that that's hard to conceive, because you and I are locked into time. So, God's trying to help a brother out and help a sister out by telling you one day with the Lord is as 1.000 years, and 1.000 years is as one day".
Translation, don't use your watch to measure God's timetable, 'cause he didn't say one day is 1.000 years or 1.000 years is a day, he said it's like it. In other words, it's outside of your scope of operation. Or as Isaiah 55 puts it, "My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts. As high as the heaven is above the earth, that's how different we are. So, don't use your watch to measure my time". So, God wants you and me to live from a different vantage point. Not from the vantage point of the temporal, but from the vantage point of the eternal while still living in the temporal. He wants to be driving on the highway thinking about the airplane. He wants us to think heaven while we maneuver in history. He gets deeper, because he makes this point about God's perspective.
"The Lord is not slow concerning his promises". Hmm. He says that, "The Lord is not slow concerning his promises as some count slowness," as we look at it. Oh, let me talk about this next phrase, "But is patient toward you". Now, remember, he's writing beloved, he's writing Christians. God is not slow, but you are holding him up. Mmm. God is only slow 'cause you're getting in the way. God is only slow 'cause he's waiting, not on him, but on you, on the beloved, on the Christian. You are holding him up. So, when God says he's waiting on you, he is literally saying while you do not affect what he ultimately determines to do, you do affect timing. It's a 35-day walk from Egypt to the Promised Land that took 40 years.
God never changed his plan, "I'm going to take you out of Egypt, and I'm going to take you to the Promised Land, but you will affect how long it takes. It should've taken 35 days, it has now taken you 40 years because you left me out of the time". Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years to have a promise fulfilled of a blessing, but because they introduced the flesh, what should've happened a lot earlier took 25 years. It didn't change what God said, but it did change when it happened. Because God is waiting on us with regard to the timing, not with regard to the promise.
So, some of us have been waiting on things for a decade that God is not free to do because we will not walk in faith in the time. He says, "I'm waiting for you". Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He brings in evangelism. You're praying for somebody to get saved who you will not take the time to witness to. What he is saying to you is that you have a part to play in the timing of God. So, a lot of Christians will say, "Well, I'm trusting the Lord". And the Lord is saying, "And I'm waiting on you, 'cause I'm not slow concerning my promise, but you can slow me down concerning my timing".
So, don't let it be said that God never came through for me because he was waiting on me. And that's why there's so many things in the Bible that tells you to do something first before God does what he does. He wants to see the obedience of faith before he will move. He finally says we're to live in light of God's priorities. "The day of the Lord," verse 10, "will come like a thief unexpected". The heavens are going to pass away, they're going to pass away with a roar. The elements are going to be destroyed with intense heat. Says all these things are to be destroyed. Whoa, whoa.
He introduces you and me to the uncreation. We know about the creation, this is the uncreation. This is where he will disintegrate the universe as we now know it and replace it with a new heavens and a new earth that will be perfect in righteousness forever. That's the uncreation. Watch this now. Since all these things are to be destroyed, why are you treating them like they won't? That new car is going to be destroyed. That money will be destroyed, and the bank that holds it will be destroyed. Wall Street will melt. All the things that men hold high are going to evaporate into nothing, so why are you treating it like it's going to be here forever? Because we've lost the eternal perspective, because history has become more important than eternity. And so, we make idols of things that are going to burn.
Now, we live in this world, so you need a car, you need a house, you need clothes, you need money in the bank. Yeah, he's not saying don't have those things. He is saying put them in their right perspective. And so, we are to hold them losetly, not intimately. So, what am I supposed to do? He tells you, "Since these things are going to be destroyed," verse 11, "what sort of people are we to be in holy conduct and godliness"? To live a life pleasing to God must be our goal since the things that would take us from God are not even going to last. And then three times he uses the phrase, verse 12, "Looking for". Verse 13, "We are looking". Verse 14, "Since you look for".
Notice the word "look," look. Ah, here's the key. Three times he tells you to look. Shift what you're looking at. You cannot now shift where you live. You can, we can adjust where we look. What he is asking us to do is to look at this life from the life to come, to make the life to come bigger than the life we're now living. And if we make the life to come bigger than the life we're now living, we will live better in this life 'cause we're looking at that life. Where you look, where I look will determine how we live. "We're looking," he says in verse 13, "for a new heaven and a new earth". When you do that, look at what will happen. He says in verse 12, "Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God".
Wow, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. To hasten something is to speed it up. You're speeding something up when you hasten it. He says we are to have an eternal perspective as our priority while we're living an earthly life now. So, while God has his fixed time, we have different speeds of movement. And our speed of movement, you know, I'm sure many of you, like me, when you were growing up, it looked like it was going to take a long time to become an adult, to get out of this house. It's taking so long. We were dreaming, but why is it taking so long to become 18?
Now that I'm old, the clock, slow down, slow down, slow down, slow down. Clock be speeding up. January the first, next day is December 31. Clock just spinning and spinning and spinning. The clock hasn't changed. It's my relationship to it that's changed. He says you can hasten the day of the Lord by your movement. We'll have a lot of people in our Easter production, and in any production, whether it's on Broadway or Las Vegas production. Here's what comes with that, a dress rehearsal. You have to have a dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal is not the show, it is preparation for the show. But because there is a show, you need a dress rehearsal so that when the show comes, you're ready for the show 'cause you've done a dress rehearsal.
Now, the dress rehearsal is done with the show in mind. You're only thinking about that day when the performance will be made public. But to get ready for that day, you got to rehearse today. And you got to dress the part for the show that is to come. Now, along the way in the dress rehearsal, you will make some mistakes. Along the way in the dress rehearsal, you're going to forget some lines. Along the way in the dress rehearsal, you're going to miss some cues. But if you keep looking at that day, the next rehearsal is going to be better than the last rehearsal 'cause you want to be your best self on that day.
Guess what? My life and your life now is a dress rehearsal for that day. When we stand before the Lord, and yes, we will have missed some lines and missed some cues and made some mistakes, but if every time we came to rehearsal we were better than the last time because we lived in light of that day today, then our expectation will transform our behavior, and eternity will give us victory in time. May God help us to live with an eternal perspective.
God wants us to look at time from the standpoint of eternity. He wants us to inject backwards, to look at the life to come and let that define the life that we have now. God wants heaven to inform earth, eternity to inform time, and he wants forever to control history. When we begin to look at life from the life that is to come, we're living with this eternal perspective, because now we're asking the question, how will what I'm about to do, where I'm about to go, what I'm about to think, what I'm about to say, how will that affect what happens in the life that is to come? Because like it or not, this life is a dress rehearsal for eternity. And once we get that mind-set, once we are thinking that way, operating that way, and have that perspective, well, a lot of things are going to change, aren't they?
They're going to change, because it may be okay for me right now, but it won't be okay for me then, so then it's really not okay for me now because I'm looking at life through a different lens. Our Father wants us to march to a different drumbeat because we're listening to a different drum. We're listening to the sounds of eternity invading history. So, as you begin to live your life or continue living your life, adjust your decision making as I must adjust mine. Begin to raise the question, how will eternity look at my choices now? Because I want eternity to applaud my choices now, and I want my choices now to reflect the eternity from which I'm looking for that applause. Let's live a life from eternity, and then we'll be better off in history.