Sermon delivered June 14, 2003 by Elder Dave Cress,

president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Let It Shine

2 Peter 3:1

I bring you greetings from your 28,338 brothers and sisters throughout the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. If there's anyone here today that's not familiar with that term, the Georgia- Cumberland Conference is a sisterhood of churches and schools that encompass the state of Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and Cherokee County, North Carolina. Together, these churches and schools have formed a conference so that collectively we can do more to advance the kingdom of God than any one of us could do individually. We're delighted to be part of the Georgia- Cumberland Conference, a hundred and thirty-nine churches and fifty-three schools throughout this beautiful territory.

It's good to see many of you. We just worshiped with you two weeks ago at Camp Meeting on the beautiful campus of Southern Adventist University with Elder Doug Bachelor, and it was a joy to worship with you at Camp Meeting and to hear God's word. I want to thank you for your faithfulness to God here at McDonald Road. The Lord is blessing your church because of your faithfulness. This community is a better place to live because of your loving service for Jesus Christ. And I particularly, Brother Paul, appreciated the offering call this morning for Multilingual Ministries. You may be aware that this very day within our humble conference of Georgia-Cumberland, we worship in a total of seven languages. Just a few years ago that was not heard of. In fact, when I came to this conference seventeen years ago, we worshiped in three languages. We worshiped in English, Spanish and Korean. And now seven languages, and truly our conference is becoming very diverse. I could take our worship time together this morning and share with you many stories of how God is working in every corner of this conference, but that's not our purpose here, other than to say that the Lord is good and because people like yourselves have opened your hearts and your minds to let the Spirit indwell and for you to reach out and encourage others. Let's go to God's word.

Did you ever wonder what went through Noah's mind the first time after the flood he felt a raindrop? Think about that. Before the flood he'd never felt a raindrop. The first time after the flood he feels a raindrop. What went through his mind? And then a second raindrop, and a third. And then a drizzle, a downpour, and finally a real gully washer.

You can see a flood of memories come to his mind, and he thinks, "Oh my! What's going on?" He's looking and he's looking and you know what he's looking for. "Where's that rainbow?" Memories of dark skies, flashing lightning, booms of thunder, mountain-moving earthquakes. All these permeated his mind and he's wondering, "Where is that rainbow? Where is that rainbow?" Ah, and then he sees it. He sees the rainbow and he is reassured. He's reassured of God's covenant, God's promise to him.

That was the first rain shower after the flood. But there were more. A second, and a third and until rainshowers became commonplace. And it's possible that after a few rain showers, and after a few weeks and a few months and a few years, it is possible that it wasn't quite as exciting, or quite the passion to look for that rainbow, to be reminded of God's covenant. Now, you might be saying right now in your own mind to yourself, "Well, Dave, you are being very hard on old Noah. He may have never had those thoughts. He may have never questioned one time when he felt that first raindrop after the flood about where's that rainbow, and where's that promise.

Okay. I'll grant you that. Maybe he never had those thoughts. That's okay. You can say I'm a little tough on Noah. That's fine.

Let me talk about you and me then. Do you remember the first time that you heard the words, "Jesus is coming again, and soon?" And you understood the plan of salvation. And you embraced that in your heart. And you read the promises of Scripture that Jesus indeed is coming again, and coming again soon. And your heart was thrilled. And you had a passion, you had a fire burning within you. And you wanted to share with others, "Jesus is alive. He is anxious to be involve in your life, and He is coming again." How long has it been since you first embraced that? We just witnessed a beautiful baptism, and this man, Brother Crosby, is excited in the Lord. Tremendous.

For some people sitting here today, it's been a long time since your baptism. So my question to you is, "Do you really, I mean really in your heart of hearts, do you believe that Jesus is coming again, and soon?" Maybe there's just a passage of Scripture that would help us in our study this morning. Go to the New Testament, back near the end, close to Revelation to Second Peter.

2 Peter 3 has words of encouragement and challenge for you and me this day, this June 14, 2003. There you are, 2 Peter 3:1. Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. Peter writing. Now this is what we call an cyclical letter. It was to be cycled to various churches. It wasn't intended for just one group. It is intended for you and me today, at McDonald Road. Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Fist of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires and they will say, "Where is this 'coming' He promised?" What is this coming they're talking about? It's the second coming of Jesus. He's referring to the second coming. Where is it? "Hoho, You say that Jesus is coming again. Right. Where is it? We've heard you preaching about it. We've heard you giving Bible studies about it. We've heard you talking about it. Where is this coming?" That's what the scoffers say.

Now, notice. Continue on in verse 4. "Ever since out fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. They forget that. They forget that this earth was called in to a miraculous beginning. It did not evolve. It was created. God said it, it happened. They forget that. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. And by the same word the present heavens and earth are preserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Now, here we come to the key: 2 Peter 3:8. 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. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I'm glad for that. Are you glad that God is patient with us? That He is long-suffering? Not willing any to perish. But all to come to repentance. To commit their life to Jesus Christ, just as this beautiful example in the baptistery this morning.

How long is long? Many of you know I have a little girl, Merideth. For her, waiting until her next big event, maybe it's her birthday. Oh, I've made a little promise that this summer we're going to go to a special place. She asked me just yesterday, "Daddy, how long until we're going to..." Now for her, that's an eternity. The truth is that it's only three weeks away. But for her, that' a long long time. For most of us in this room, particularly those of us with greying or white hair, three weeks away is a snap of the finger. God is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He's patient. He's loving. But the Bible is clear. 2 Peter 3:10. 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 in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed His coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

What are you looking for this morning? I want to tell you about a dear senior saint, who is now sleeping in Jesus. Her name was Loretta. This was about twenty-three years ago and I was pastoring a church in south Florida, and Loretta was one of our senior saints, an encourager. She sat right back there, just about where the gentleman in his red shirt is sitting. That's right about where Loretta sat every Sabbath morning. One Sabbath, after the service... I had preached my heart out, you know, with what I thought was a good Biblical message and I waited at the door and greeted the saints as they came through. And I noticed that Loretta did something very unique that I'd never seen her do before. She sat right there in her seat, and she waited. That was not like Loretta. And she waited until everyone had exited the sanctuary and then she came and she had a little smile on her face. Loretta took my right hand in both of her small hands, and she had my hand covered on both sides. And she said, "Now, Pastor Dave, that was a good sermon."

By the way, just a little hint: that's as good thing to say to Pastor Don or Kent on Sabbath morning as you're leaving. That's an encouraging thing to say. Okay, we're done with that.

She said, "Now, pastor Dave, that's a good sermon." But she didn't stop there. She said, "but I have one question for you." I'm thinking, "What have done. Did I mess up a Scripture? Did I call the wrong text? Did I say something? What have I done to offend dear little Loretta?" And this is what she said, in fact, I've written it down because it just was very penetrating on my mind. This is what she said: "Dave, I have one question for you. When are you going to preach a sermon about the second coming of Jesus? Your sermons are good Bible-based messages, but I need to hear more about the second coming of Jesus. You see, Dave, You're just a young man, and she was right. She said, "But I have one foot on a banana peel and my other foot is on the edge of my grave and I need to hear more about the second coming of Jesus and His marvelous grace, so when are you going to talk about the second coming?"

I'll tell you this; now I was not in that church every Sabbath morning. I had several churches. But I guarantee you this that for the next three to four months every time I was in that church on Sabbath morning you know what I preached about. I wrote, I begged, I borrowed, I stole any sermon I could find about the second coming of Jesus, and I preached it, and I would look at Loretta and she would smile and give me a little wink as if to say, "That's it! That's exactly what I need to hear about."

So, is Jesus coming again? Or is it just, "Oh yeah, we believe that. That's one of the Twenty-seven Fundamentals. Yes, He's coming again. So, what time is pot-luck? Are you going to quit preaching by 10 o'clock so we can get Sabbath School going?" Sometimes I wonder and I just speak for me. I don't need to speak for you. I just wonder; is the second coming of Jesus really real in our lives?

I want you to go to another passage of Scripture. the book of Psalms, the hundred and third chapter. I'm not going to take time to read it all this morning. But I would recommend that you read Psalm 103 before this day is out. It is filled with hope and with joy and with encouragement. I want to read, beginning in verse 8. Psalm 103:8... The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever, and He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Now, I thought I might get an "Amen" out of that. He doesn't treat us like we deserve. Is that good news? For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;

Many of you are fathers in this room. Do you have compassion on your children? "That's a silly question, Dave. Of course we do." It was just a few months ago. In fact, it was Sabbath, February 14. I had arisen early in our home in Calhoun and I was heading to the very northern end of our conference in up in Tennessee and I had gotten my breakfast, dressed and was just walking out the door and I had not realized that our little girl had awakened. I had just put my hand on the door to go out in the garage and out to leave and I felt a little tap on my back. Actually it startled me and I jumped a little. I thought she was still asleep upstairs. I turned around and little Merideth looked at me and she said, "Daddy," She had both hands behind her back. "I have something for you. Today is a special day." "Yes, it's the Sabbath day." "Yes, it's even more special. It's the day of love." And she proceeded to bring from behind her back this little heart that she had made in her kindergarten class just the day before. She has her name written on in. It's now in my Bible. I predict it will be there until the Lord comes or until this paper falls apart.

And she said, "I just wanted to give you a big hug and kiss before you left this morning." Oh, I'll tell you, that was a precious hug and a kiss, and I only share that to help remind you that's what the psalmist is saying here, "God loves you with the compassion that you have for your dear children, with an ever- ending love." He is anxious to be involved in your life. He is anxious to use you to encourage others. God does not treat us as we deserve, He does not repay us for what we earn. Instead, He gives us His unending love day in and day out. His mercy is never-ending.

Now, we had a Scripture read to us this morning. You know this Scripture well. It's from the gospel of Matthew. Today we refer to this section of Scripture as the Sermon on the Mount. Now, there was no publishing that on this particular day Christ was going to go out and deliver this Sermon on the Mount. That's what we call it now. But there are tremendous insights for daily living, very practical right here in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. And in Matthew 5, beginning in verse 14, we read these words: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Where does the praise go? Not to you. Are you, and of your own self, able to do good works? No. What did we read in Peter just a few moments ago? "That we are to live holy godly lives encouraging others, helping others. Letting our light shine.

I know what the devil tells me on occasion, and I would predict that he tells you the same thing. He will say, "Dave, you are nothing but a fraud. You are not good enough to be an ambassador for me." And the devil will start reminding me of my challenges. Does that ever happen to you? And he knows exactly where to just narrow in. Let me tell you, friend, don't listen to the devil. He's wrong. The Bible says he's a liar and the truth is not in him.

Jesus has called you to be a light set on a hill to reach out and to encourage others. Did you know in a recent study of Seventh- day Adventist young people from grade six through twelve, the number one factor in helping our young people remain in relationship with Jesus in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a word called, "Service." Letting our light shine. Reaching out to others and helping.

Do you want your kids, when they are growing up, to be involved in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you want them to be involved in this church, get them involve right now in helping others, in reaching others.

Two months ago, one of my wife's friends called and said, "Can we host a birthday party at your home?" My wife said, "Well, sure." And then my wife's friend said, "By the way, we're going to do something different. We're going to send out the invitations and we're going to share with others that are coming to the party. Not to bring gifts to my daughter, but instead, we're going to find a family that's in need and we're going to ask them to bring gifts that family can use." Now, my wife works for the Gordon County Health Department. My wife is a nurse and day by day she ministers to people in a very lower economic income scale primarily to expecting mothers, or mothers of small babies and toddlers, helping those little ones get prenatal and postnatal care and medical attention. So my wife's friend asked, "Can you find a family that matches up?" "Sure enough." And so there is now one very happy family because of a group of kids being encouraged to reach out and help others.

Now, I'm not suggesting that that's what you need to do at your birthday parties. That's not it. Nor am I setting this up as an example. I'm just giving you one little idea of how you can let your light shine. What I'd like you to do, I'd like for you this week to sit down. If you're living with a family, plan it with your family. If you're living alone, maybe call up a friend. But this week, sit down and think of one way that you can reach out in this community that you haven't done before, and let your light shine for Jesus, and make a difference for eternity.

I want to read to you just one little passage from a book that I love and that I know most of you love, entitled, Acts of the Apostles, by EG White. "Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace." (AA, p. 600) How about that? That's what you and I are. God has called you and me to be channels of grace. "There is nothing the Savior desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and His character. There is nothing the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Savoir's love. All heaven is waiting for men and women through whom God can reveal the power of Christianity." Who are willing to be channels of grace. Let it shine.

You and I have the tremendous privilege of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ. We have the assurance this moment that when Jesus comes again, we will live forever with Him. That's marvelous news. And you know, as a teenager, your parent told you just as they told me when they were granting more privileges. I remember when I wanted that family car after I got my license, they would say, "With the privileges come the responsibilities." You and I are privileged. God is long-suffering, slow, patient. He loves us with an everbounding love. He takes our sins and casts them from the east as far as the east is from the west. We just read it out of His words. We are unbelievably blest. And with the privileges come the responsibilities. What are our responsibilities? Let our light shine.

Service! This week! Don't wait 'til the evangelist comes to town. Don't wait for Pastor Don or Kent to do it. Become a servant for Jesus, and I know that most of you if not all are already doing that. But this week, you plan it. You and your family. If you live alone, call a friend and you plan one way that you're gong to let your light shine this week and be an encouragement to someone else.

We live in an age where centuries are compressed into just a few short years. Knowledge increases, men run to and fro. The names of famous men and women appear on the horizon and flicker for a moment and then are lost forever in a sea of forgetfulness. But I promise you this, with each sixty minutes, with each passing day, with each fleeting month there is one name that becomes more precious and more sweeter. That name is Jesus. And Jesus says to you and me this moment, John 14:1-4 KJV. "Let not your heat be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house[hold] are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto Myself that where I am there ye may be also.

What was it that went through Noah's mind when he felt that first raindrop after the flood? I don't know. But I know this: God has a place He's prepared just for you and just for me. It is His desire for you and me to let our light shine and to help others enjoy eternity with Him.

Hymn of Praise: #426, I Shall See the King
Scripture: Matthew 5:14-16
Hymn of Response: #633, When We All Get to Heaven

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