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February 25, 2012

Powerful preaching encourages life's journey of faith

"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. 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 in it will be laid bare." (2 Peter 3:9-10)

Peter gives us reasons why he has written about these things. He says it is "to stimulate you to wholesome thinking" and "to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." Approximately three-hundred times, Jesus spoke of his second coming. In view of this fact, the Lord's Church must intensify its efforts to win the lost, as well as prepare for his coming.

In today's troubled world, much of humanity senses something ominous on the horizon. All around the globe there is a great deal of hopelessness, despair, loneliness, depression, confusion, purposelessness, fear and uncertainty. The Bible says there is coming a time of global problems "with perplexity" and "men's hearts failing them for fear" (Luke 21:25).

The world is in desperate need of a spiritual awakening, and Christ is our only hope. Paul wrote these words: "But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of selves and money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

We have these prophetic words and many more like them throughout the Bible. I grew up in the environment of the church and heard powerful preaching from the pulpits. As far back as I can remember, even as a little boy in the late 1940s and early '50s, I was enthralled with such preaching. It had my rapt attention. The power of hearing God's uncompromising word being preached in all its glory and power in my younger days has served to stay with me and encourage me in my life's journey of faith.

Some modern-day psychology suggests that preaching on the subjects of end-times or a real hell or healthy fear of God is somehow harmful to young minds. Since these things are from God and he wants them preached, such psychology is simply unfounded. According to Peter, the value to being reminded of the day of the Lord is to help us think in a more morally beneficial and right way.

There is coming upon Earth, a time of cataclysmic upheaval when the very foundations of the Earth will be severely shaken, and the judgments of God will pour out on humanity. There is going to be a major impact on not only the Earth, but the atmosphere and heavens as elements melt in an inferno of fire and heat. If we had no choice but to be here and go through these terrible events, it would truly be a frightening scenario bringing a terrible fear beyond anything

our minds could bear to think about. But in the same Bible that warns us of these times that are coming, there is also great news to thrill our hearts and minds. All is not hopeless. Peter reminds us that God will unleash his holy wrath upon creation in order to pave the way for a better world cleansed and unspoiled by sin. But Peter also reminds us that this same God patiently gives every human soul the opportunity to be saved. No one need go through the terror of the events of the day of the Lord that are fast approaching if he or she will but turn to God in repentance and put their faith in Christ. We get a glimpse of God's loving heart when we read that he wants all to know him and be one of his children. Knowing destruction is coming to this world, we are encouraged to live "holy and godly lives" and to even welcome the day of the Lord.

Many today resist the idea of needing to repent of their sins. They think that whatever they decide to be acceptable behavior is perfectly fine and they don't need to answer to God. To them, the idea of anything being sinful is an archaic idea and consequently they do not sense any need to repent. God says differently. God "commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

The good news is God has promised eternal life to those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and "in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new Earth" (2Peter 3:13).

The Rev. Jim Wheeler Sr. is an Assemblies of God Evangelist.

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