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Anticipation

Date: Dec. 7, 2014

Author: Bob Henkins

Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13, 2 Peter 3:8-15, Isaiah 1:1-8

Key Verse: 2 Peter 3:14

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Was there anything in your life that you really looked forward to? Or is there something right now that you are looking forward to? Is there anything that you are anticipating? There are many things that we anticipate. Children anticipate Christmas morning and the joy of opening their gifts. Teenagers anticipate getting their driving license and the freedom it provides. College students anticipate the end of the semester when they can finally be free from all their class work or their graduation and the opportunity of getting a good job. A bride anticipates her wedding day looking forward to spending the rest of her life with her prince charming. An expecting mother and father, look forward to the day they can finally hold their new born baby. And after the baby comes the cycle starts all over for the next generation. In 1979, Heinz ketchup came out with a commercial in which everyone was eagerly waiting for the ketchup to come out of the bottle. And the song “anticipation” played in the background as the painfully waited for the slow ketchup to pour onto their cheeseburger. Imagine if you’re super hungry and you see this delicious burger and fries and you know how good that ketchup tastes, you just can’t wait to bite in to them. However anticipation is a waiting game. And during the waiting our desire grows, day by day. And in this waiting period what do we do? Usually we prepare. Children tell their parents everything they hope to get, teenagers practice driving, college students study hard, a bride plans her wedding, and the young family buys a crib and baby clothes, paints the room, baby proofs the house, gets a changing table, buys diapers and the list goes on and on. My point is when you anticipate something, you naturally prepare for its coming. Even that commercial portrayed that. And that’s what our passage is about today.

As we know advent means arrival, and anticipation is defined as looking forward to or being sure of, so to anticipate the advent is to look forward to the arrival of Christ. If we are anticipating the second coming of Jesus, then we will be preparing for his arrival. When we anticipate something, we have a desire for it, a longing for it. Last week I told you that Julia and I were going out to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. We had reservations for this restaurant called Citi, which is on the 70th floor, the top of Lake Point Tower. And to tell the truth, I was looking forward to spending some quiet time with my wife and a good meal. And true to form Julia ordered the Salmon and I ordered a ribeye, we usually get surf and turf, Salmon & Steak. As we were waiting, we looked out over the city lights, now I know why the place is called Citi, we could smell all the good food being served there. My anticipation grew and my stomach growled. And when they brought our food, let me tell you, mmmm mmmmm man was it good. This is what I mean by anticipation. There was no denying my desire for it. I valued it. And another thing that I noticed was that I was sure that steak was going to come. I didn’t know exactly when it was going to come, but I knew it was on its way. And if it didn’t, there was going to be trouble because you don’t come between a man and his steak. So I prepared. I put my napkin on my lap. I moved the silverware to the sides so that the waiter knew exactly where to put it.

So what are we anticipating and why? Last week Mike talked about the coming of the Son of man and why he will come. We are anticipating the coming of the Messiah, our Savior. And as Christians, we believe that Jesus IS the Messiah and that he came to the world once already and NOW we are anticipating Jesus’ second coming. If we were still anticipating his first coming, then we would be called Jewish. So what’s the big deal, why do we anticipate Jesus’ second coming? To find this out let’s take a look at our text. Take a look at Isaiah 40, verses 1,2, 10, & 11. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,  that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” In these verses we get a picture of what Jesus will be like when he comes. God knows our situation, he knows how sin has oppressed our lives, so he comes as a comforter, as a shepherd that tends his flock, carrying them in his arms close to his heart, gently leading. A shepherd also protects his flock and it says here that he comes with power and a mighty arm. Not only that, he brings his reward with him. Recompense is like compensation for an injury. So when Jesus comes again, he will be bringing a reward for those who believe in him and have suffered for their belief.

There’s more. Take a look at Psalm 85 and see what he will do. “You, Lord, showed favor to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. 10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. 12 The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. 13 Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.” From these verses we see how God shows kindness and favor and how he restores his people. How he forgives our gross injustice and covers all our wickedness. God doesn’t just cover up our big mistakes like a scandal. Instead he handles it out in the open for everyone to see and satisfies justice and he pays the price for us himself. Our God is a god of justice AND restoration. When he comes, he promises peace to his people. On the earth, we’ve had so many years of war. Since 2001, we’ve been engaged actively in war and it has never ended. The world longs for peace. Not the kind of peace that we see enacted on the national level, based upon the terms of the winning side, but real peace that penetrates our souls. Verse 10 tells us that when Jesus comes, he will bring love and faithfulness. Isaiah shows that “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.” (v6) This shows that our faithfulness is temporary. However God’s faithfulness is everlasting. These verses also show that our Lord will shine righteousness down from heaven. And the Lord will give what is good, he will shower us with his blessings and the fruit of this will be a harvest of good deeds from God’s people. It says that faithfulness will spring forth from the earth and there will be real change in all the people’s hearts. And maybe there will be no need for alarm companies, or locks or passwords because we won’t be trying to steal from each other. And there will be no need for guns, because we won’t be trying to kill or harm one another. The lion will be able to lay down with the lamb. We won’t have all these bills and those who have and those who don’t.

There’s more, take a look at 2 Peter verse 13. “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” When Jesus comes, he will bring a new heaven and a new earth. What does that mean? Take a look at what Revelation 21:1-4 says, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Can you picture what the new heaven and earth will be like? It will be wonderful. Don’t you long for a place like this? A place where there is no more crying, or suffering, or death? When we see what’s going on in the world, with places like Ferguson Missouri, and with the death of Eric Garner we live in a broken world, where superficial love and selfishness abounds. Where is there justice? Where is there peace? Only when Jesus comes again will there be real peace, love and righteousness. Don’t you long for a place like this?

How can we be sure of what God is telling us will actually happen? We can be sure, because God promises it. We can see several places in these passages where the Lord makes a promise. Take a look at Isaiah verse 40:5, “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” This is his promise. It means, “I said, now I’m going to do it.” Take a look at Psalm 85:8. “I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people.” Look at 2 Peter 3:9 & 13, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,” “But in keeping with his promise” God’s promises are all over these passages. And they’re for those who believe in him. Ok big deal you say, people promise things every day, but they don’t always keep their promises. In fact people throughout history have said that Jesus promised to come again but he hasn’t come yet, so he must not be coming. However Jesus isn’t like a bad date, who doesn’t show up. Take a look at what Peter has to say about this. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (v8-9) What we learn from these verses is that the Lord’s timing is different than ours. How do you equate a 1000 years to 1 day? How do you equate someone who lives eternally that does not live within our time frame? Just because he doesn’t come in one person’s life span doesn’t mean that he’s not coming. People who scoff and doubt and ridicule God for being slow, get a good laugh mocking God. Ironically this should lead them to repentance, but they have forgotten God’s history because they’ve drifted away from him. Instead God is slow to come because he’s patiently waiting for people to repent and turn back to him so they will not perish.

Our problem is that we’re basing what we know of promises from our bad experiences and project them on to God, which is not right. God is different than us. We’ve already seen that people’s faithfulness is temporary however God’s word is everlasting. Take a look at Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” The word of the Lord is sure and it cannot be broken. In fact we actually see in theses passages God’s fulfillment of his promise. In Isaiah, it says “A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD;” this was Isaiah’s proclamation of God’s promise to send a forerunner of the Messiah. And in Mark’s passage we see how God kept his promise, it says, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” — 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness,” The simple words, “and so John the Baptist appeared…” are the sign that God keeps his word. There are more than 300 promises about the coming Messiah that are recorded and fulfilled in the Bible. The Bible records so many of God’s promises for us just so that we may come to believe in and trust him. (Jn 20:30-31) But all God’s promises can be broken down into 2, kind of like the old testament and the new testament, the old covenant or promise and the new covenant / promise. The old testament is his promise to send the Messiah the first time and it was fulfilled in the new testament. And the new testament God promises that the Messiah will come again. All of God’s promises have been fulfilled except one, which is yet to come. And the point is if he kept all the old promises, what makes us think that he won’t keep the last? God has demonstrated for us a pattern, of promise and keeping that promise so that we can trust in him.

Now that we’ve established that Jesus will come again, what will happen when he comes? Take a look at 2 Peter again. “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. … 12… That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” At the first advent, Jesus came as a helpless baby in a manger. He came as a humble, gentle and healing Savior. He was kind and approachable. However when he comes at the second advent, he will be very different. He will come in great power and glory. He will come with a roar to judge and the elements will be destroyed by fire, everything will be laid bare. He will come in the clouds so that everyone will see him. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. And it will happen suddenly, like a thief that strikes in the night. When our house was robbed, it felt so sudden. And I was in a state of confusion, wondering what was going on, could this really be happening. That’s what it will be like when Jesus comes again. It will happen suddenly and if we’re not ready, we’ll be caught off guard. When the Lord comes there will only be 2 kinds of people, nothing will matter, not our skin color, not where we were born, not if you prefer the iphone over android, or the PC over the Mac. The only 2 groups will be are those who believe in Jesus and those who did not. Those who believe, look forward to the day of the Lord, when Jesus will come, and those who don’t believe will be afraid. Because Jesus, the almighty creator God will be at war with them.

Take a look at verse 14-15a. “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” From these verses we see that those of us that are looking forward to Jesus’ second coming with anticipation, we will be preparing for his return. Therefore, preparation is the sign of anticipation. Just look at the first Christmas. The Magi were anticipating the coming messiah, so much so, that they prepared expensive gifts for him and traveled a great distance just to see him and present their gifts. And there was Simeon and Anna who anticipated the coming Messiah so much that when they saw him at the temple, Simeon said now I can die, for my eyes have seen my Savior. And think about Mary and Joseph how they prepared to receive their baby.

When we have great desire for something, we prepare for it. John the Baptist was a good example of this. It says, “A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” Raising the valleys and lowering the mountains refer in hyperbole to workmen leveling or smoothing out the roads on which a dignitary would travel when he came to visit an area. Today an equivalent is, “roll out the red carpet.” This is what John was doing for Jesus. He was rolling out the red carpet, making him feel welcome. How did he do this, by preaching a message of repentance. Many people accepted his message and repented. In this way, their hearts were prepared to receive Jesus – when we are humble and repent, then we can accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Otherwise our hearts are cold and hard and more likely to reject Jesus. Not only that, John prepared the way by living as an example – humble, not extravagant, honest, truthful, unafraid. Isaiah gave an example of this, “You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.” This is exactly what John did, he told others about Jesus. Our key verse says, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Are we really looking forward to Jesus? Since preparation is a sign of anticipation, what are we doing to prepare for Jesus’ coming? If we are not preparing, maybe we are not anticipating? That would indicate that we have lost our passion, our desire, our zeal for the Lord. Are you ready for the Lord’s return? If we are not prepared for those things I mentioned in the message intro, that’s ok because you still have time. Even when a newborn baby comes, and you have not prepared anything, the hospital gives you enough things for you to take home. However when Jesus comes again, there will be no time left. That’s why this is such an important issue. (see audio for the rest of conclusion)

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