“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” (2 Peter 3:10–11, AV)
As a young boy, I spent some time participating in our town’s local Boy Scout troop. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” Very simple but direct and poignant. The Boy Scouts taught various skills that prepared the scout for life. The motto has stuck in my mind throughout the years.
While I was in the military and stationed in Germany during the cold war, we were to stay at a high level of readiness. The fear was that the Soviet Union could launch an attack at the border without notice. To maintain readiness, we would have to keep our combat gear at hand, have all our vehicles and weapons in a ready status, and all of our soldiers thoroughly trained. To ensure our readiness, we often were alerted to assemble, sometimes in the early hours. On occasion we loaded up all equipment and moved to an assembly area. All of this was to ensure we were alert and prepared for whatever might happen.
Here, Peter instructed the church to be prepared. However, here it was not to be prepared for the threat of an enemy. It was to be prepared for the “day of the Lord.” He started by describing the imminent coming of that day without notice. It would be like the coming of “a thief in the night.” By this he meant that the time could come without notice. A thief does not announce to the homeowner at what day or time he will come to burgle the residence. The implication is that one must maintain constant vigilance.
So, what does it mean to be in constant vigilance for that day? This does not mean that we have to stay awake twenty-four hours a day seven days a week physically. In my time in Germany, we would be physically awakened when alerted at night. Yet, we were still to be ready, having our mission, training, and equipment up to standard at all times.
Peter went on to present a rhetorical question that tells us how we are to be ready, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” Our readiness has to do with our characteristic character. He stated that people must be ready in holiness and godliness. In other words, a person must be in a pursuit of holiness and godliness in his or her life.
An absolute essential for the pursuit of holiness and godliness is a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The natural person cannot understand the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:14) and does not have the inner strength to characteristically pursue holiness and godliness since he or she is not indwelt by the Spirit.
Yet, even believers need to take Peter’s exhortation to heart. For, one will not pursue these as he or she should apart from being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, AV) and “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, AV). Clearly to pursue holiness and godliness we need to be yielded to the control of the Spirit and not driven by the flesh.
Be prepared. Stand firm in the faith. Pursue holiness and godliness.