1) 1 Peter 1:1-2: Selected by the Foreknowledge of God 2) 1 Peter 1:2: The Trinity and Our Salvation 3) 1 Peter 1:3: The Gift of Living Hope 4) 1 Peter 1:3-5: Salvation, Inheritance and the New Birth 5) 1 Peter 1:5-9: Grief and Appropriating Our Salvation 6) 1 Peter 1:10-12: Salvation and the Plan of God 7) 1 Peter 1:13: Attaining God's Direction for Your Life 8) 1 Peter 1:14-16: Holiness 9) 1 Peter 1:17-21: Our Father the Judge 10) 1 Peter 1:23-2:1: Putting Away the Perishable Seed
1 Peter 1:1-2: Selected by the Foreknowledge of God
1 Peter 1:1-2: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
Two thousand years ago God changed life by sending His Son to answer the cry of our heart, “Lord, how can we, broken, failing, unworthy, have a walk with you—holy, all-powerful. Lord, we do not fit with you. We do not deserve it. We are not worthy of it and we cannot comprehend it.” And so God invaded history by sending His Son in the form of a man, Jesus. He walked this earth not just to die for us on a cross but also to teach us how to live. It is one thing to accept Christ as our Savior and be saved. It is another thing to walk with Him and hold His priorities in our broken and distracting world, to be what God calls mankind to be by living justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him.
Jesus came to put our lives in perspective. Not a perspective of 2,000 years ago of walking around with sandals and keeping Jewish feasts but the perspective of the Creator of the universe who says, “I know what life is all about. Listen to me and I will strengthen your life in Eustis in Lake County in 2009.” To help us to do that, Jesus walked with people. And one of the main ones he walked with was a man named Peter who saw what Jesus did, who spent long nights by a campfire having discussions with Him. He walked miles on desert roads with Him and saw the passion, the heart, the compassion, the power, the strength of Jesus.
When we talk about Peter, we should listen to Peter because of the things he knows and the things he learned. He saw Jesus instruct the experts and correct the corrupt. He saw Him heal the blind and the lame and raise the dead. He saw Jesus calm storms, walk on water and feed 5,000 people with only a few bread loaves and fish. He saw Jesus’ heart for the poor, the orphaned, and the widow. He saw Jesus’ compassion for the outcast and the broken. He saw Jesus betrayed, beaten, and crucified. He also declared his courage and willingness to fight for Jesus but failed to live up to it. He experienced the forgiveness of Jesus. He was the first one to the empty tomb. He saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion. And he was sent out to foreign lands to feed God’s sheep.
He wrote 1 Peter to help us to make sense of it all. He wrote these words: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Those names are strange but no stranger than Eustis, Tavares, or Umatilla. We are just more familiar with them but in those days they were Roman colonies everyone knew about. They had heritage. They had reputation. In fact, it is the area Peter himself evangelizes.
As we look at the map of the Mediterranean area, we see that above Israel is the land of what we know today as Turkey, we might call it the North Country. Rugged individuals tended to populate this area. Paul on the other hand was sent to the Mediterranean Area. It was not a beach zone, but it was a little more civilized. It was more Grecianized, more Romanized than the Northern area. It was there where Paul reached the churches of Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica. In Galatians Paul writes that Peter became the apostle to the Jews and he was the apostle to the Gentiles. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia were not Jewish areas. The Jews were there because they had been dispersed from Jerusalem during the Babylonian exile hundreds of years earlier.
We find on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia are specifically named as homes to many who were there. That is quite a trip. You are not a token pew-sitting Jew to make a thousand mile journey like that by foot. Anybody here want to walk to Tennessee? Their dedication called them to go. And there they heard a man stand up and declare that Jesus was the Messiah. The person they heard was Peter and they went back to those areas and told their friends and their family and others who could not go that the Messiah, the one that God had prophesied through the prophets had come and his name was Jeshua, the Son of God, and He was crucified on a cross and rose from the dead. In that North territory many Judaic Jews became Messianic Jews and followed Jesus Christ.
Some of the Jews who had been exiled from Jerusalem ended up over in Rome. We find in 40 A.D. that Peter himself is in Rome and there some come to Christ and for years they grow and the gospel increases. But in 49 A.D. there is such a ruckus between the Jews and the Christians that Claudius exports them from Rome to keep the peace. He sends them all over the Roman world, which included Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
Imagine what it was like for them to get a notice on Monday that on Thursday they had to leave their home and all their possessions and go to a land that they had no idea what it would be like. What about those who already lived in these regions? Strangers moving into their lands, taking their jobs, land, and farms. There was a lot of tension and hostility. Peter writes to them and teaches them how to live as Christians despite the tension and hostility.
Peter starts the letter by writing this greeting: “Peter, an apostle of Christ Jesus, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…” Peter writing in Greek uses no pronouns, no prepositions, no articles in this greeting. It is a very simple, straightforward greeting. Basically, he is saying, “Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to select, foreigners, planted.” This is how he describes these people. They had been scattered and were literally foreigners in a land they were planted in against their will. They did not want to be there but they were. They did not want to be selected for relocation but they were.
Verse two: “Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by the blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” We are going to focus on that first phrase, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” What does the foreknowledge of God have to do with becoming a Christian? This verse tells us that in order to become a Christian, a forgiven and inheriting child of God, a person is first selected by God the Father to be saved unto eternal life. But what does this mean? And what about the human will, does it have anything to do with salvation? It is one of the great debates that has been going on for centuries in the Christian church. John Wesley and John Calvin from years past and John Piper and John MacArthur from today have studied this issue. In our own area, R.C. Sproul is a great theologian and has written to help us understand what the election of God means and how to connect it with the free will of man.
How many of you believe in the sovereignty of God? How many believe in the free will of man? That man has the power of choice. In relation to the salvation of God, when we talk about the free will of man we are specifically addressing his power of choice. We are not saying that who he becomes has nothing to do with his genetics, his family, his city, his country or what era he lives in—that all of his choices are free from the input of all these factors. But contrarily we do have the power to choose Christ despite where or when we live. Do you have a choice? Is it predetermined by God? Or has God granted us the grace to choose or reject Him?
Let us have all the people who believe in the sovereignty of God congregate on one side and the people who believe in the free will of man congregate on the other. Which side are you going to go on? There is not enough room in the middle so you have to make a choice. Is God’s will sovereign or do you have some kind of choice in life? Churches often end up on one side or the other. The Presbyterian church and the Reformed church lean heavily on the sovereignty of God. The Baptist church and the Assembly of God church, and others like them, lean toward the free will of man. Which church will you most likely have an altar call in—a Presbyterian church or a Baptist church? Why? Because Baptists believe in the free will of man, that we have a choice in regards to the salvation of God. Presbyterians believe more in the sovereignty of God, that God does the choosing. You are either elected or you are not. There is a mixture of beliefs out there and you may not be able to put any one person or church neatly in one category but there are general leanings.
Where does the Evangelical Free church stand on this issue? We have both feet planted firmly on both sides. We are saying God is doing what He does, God is right, God is accurate, God’s Word is clear and He has told us everything we need to know about it. And if we do not know enough about it, we do not need to. It is not something that we have to figure out with our human reason so that there are no questions left to ponder. The drive to reduce everything to human reason is a human flaw. We have to think clearly but we need to learn to let God be God. Which means that sometimes we need to restrain ourselves so that we do not ‘systemize’ everything in God’s word. On some issues we need to be willing to live with the tension of not knowing for sure. But this does not mean we cannot think on these issues and make sense of them without going to extremes. And that is the view of Peter. I like him because he takes a very practical approach and believes that the foreknowledge of God should be something that we can live with and not hinder us from walking with God.
When we talk about the foreknowledge of God, we often think about it in relation to being chosen and selected by God for salvation. One analogy might help you understand foreknowledge. How many have been to a parade? How many have watched a parade? Stand along the curb and what do you see when you watch the parade? You see floats. You see bands. You see whatever is in front of you. Now go back and higher, what do you see now? You can see how they get staged. You can start making patterns of things. You have a bigger perspective. Not just of the parade but how everything fits together. Where the floats have been and where they are going. That is the picture of God’s foreknowledge. God’s perspective is an infinite, eternal one. He knows the beginning from the end.
The foreknowledge of God should bring us hope and confidence that our lives and our world are not out of control. Does it feel like life is a little out of control right now-- your work, your family, our national economy, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the war, the economic union, and more? Does it seem like our world is out of control? The sovereignty of God is real. I do not have to worry about that. I have enough to worry about in my own backyard--my neighbor, my church, my community, and my family. I cannot make a difference there, but I can make a difference here. I am going to let God take care of what God takes care of. I am going to let God be God and I am going to be Dave Strem. I am going to be dad. I am going to be husband. Father. Pastor. But I cannot be God. God calls us to rely on His sovereignty. He also calls us to use our free will and do what He calls us to do.
There is only one other place where this word foreknowledge is used as a noun. In Acts 2:22-24 Peter says: "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” I want you to catch this. God was not in heaven looking down and saying, “Wait, I sent my Son to teach you how to live. I sent my Son to help you. You cannot do this. No, no, wait a minute. You have it all wrong. You are going to crucify Him? No!” Was God surprised and shocked that they crucified His Son? Did God make them do it? Look what it says. “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death.” They are completely responsible for their response to Him. The sovereignty of God and the free will of man working together in forming history. The sovereignty of God allows that wicked men would slay Jesus but the free will of man says that you and me do not have to be accounted among those who do.
God is a chooser. From the very beginning God chose Abraham, God chose Moses, God chose David, God chose the nation of Israel, God chose Solomon, God chose Paul, He chose Peter, and He chose Stephen to be the first martyr. God is a chooser. He reaches into lives and says, “I want to have a relationship with you. I pick you.” But why does He pick us? Is it just an arbitrary thing? This is where the topic of election runs astray. The extreme election position is that God picks who will be saved simply by His own pleasure. “I will have that one, and that one, oh, what about that one over there.” It is sort of like reaching in a bag and randomly pulling out something. In this case it is God reaching into the human race and grabbing a few to be saved and letting the others burn in hell.
But is that how God elects? Arbitrarily? I submit that is not how God selects. But if not, how then does He select? Peter tells us that it is according to the foreknowledge of God. He selects according to knowing something before we know it. But what? “I know what he knows”, you might say. “He knows how smart I am. He knows how pretty I am. He knows my great abilities. He knows my great potential.” Is that what he knows? Oh, he knows those things but those are absolutely not the reasons He selects us. Others might say, “I understand he does not select us because we are the best humanity can offer but he chose me because He knew I would choose Him. He knew I would say ‘yes’ to Him so he said ‘yes’ to me.” Yes, we do have to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; we do have to say “yes” to God’s forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ but is this why he chooses us? This is subtle but this is where the free will of man theorists error. This view of free will runs astray by putting merit on what I have done. “Because I am smart enough, willing enough or have enough faith to say ‘yes’ to God, He chooses me.”
Many who say “God the Father chooses those who choose His Son” do not have any kind of merit in mind when they say it. They have a view of a sinner conscious of his or her need for forgiveness humbly bowing before the cross of Christ knowing that is where the forgiveness of God is available. They do not see this as merit but as merely a prerequisite for salvation. We come before the cross in the manner described and the Father saves. What they say about the need to choose Jesus is true. I believe this because salvation is available only in Jesus Christ, there is no other way to God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But is that what God foreknows when He selects us?
Before we look at what God foreknows before He selects us, let us look at the power of choice first. When we make a choice to do something in order for that choice to be consummated we need to commit ourselves to do whatever is necessary to make the choice a reality. There are easy choices that are focused on the hear-and-now. Little is involved in achieving the end our choosing had in mind. If I choose to chew mint gum rather than bubble gum, when both options are immediately available to me, all I have to do is reach for the mint gum, unwrap it, and pop it in my mouth. However, if I make a decision to attend Stanford University instead of a local community college in my home state then I have to commit myself to getting excellent grades, applying, and if accepted getting myself there and probably getting a job to help pay for living expenses. It is also necessary for my decision to be realistic for me to be able to get the grades necessary to be accepted by Stanford. If I am a ‘C’ student but I have a yearning to attend Stanford my desire will not be satisfied, no matter what decision I make. I can decide to apply and even to move out to California but it will all be in vain if my grades are just not good enough—because of Stanford’s high standards it becomes apparent that I lack the ability to follow through on my ‘decision’.
The Bible and our own consciences inform us that God’s standards for acceptance into His eternal presence in heaven is infinitely beyond our ability to achieve. The mere ‘decision’ to go to heaven to be with God is not sufficient to get us there. We lack the holiness necessary to enter into God’s presence and the ability to make ourselves worthy of His acceptance. Although receiving Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, the decision to receive Him is not sufficient to ‘get us to heaven’. A mere decision does not make us holy nor is it the first of many follow-up decisions that will consummate in our making ourselves like Jesus Christ—God’s standard. If, then, we lack the ability to follow through to make a salvation decision effectual, then what is it that God the Father foresees that leads Him to select some for salvation? What does He foreknow that moves Him to select some for eternal life? If it is not merit or the act of choosing Jesus Christ, then what does He know?
He chooses us because He knows our hearts. He knows whether our hearts want Him or not. The heart that wants God moves God’s heart to act on that person’s behalf. God woos the wanting heart to receive His Son. Those that come to Christ give God permission to remake them to be like Christ—the standard of God. If our hearts do not want Him, He is not going to force Himself on us. He is not going to remake someone who does not want to be remade. “You cannot stand Me and do not want to be around Me but you are going to come with Me anyway!” Is that the way God acts? Does that sound like God to you? It is God’s will (His heart’s desire) that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wants you to be with Him. And if you want Him He provides the means for it to happen. He knows our hearts. He chooses us not because He knows that we will believe Him but He knows, oh, this is tender, that we want to believe Him. That something in us wants to believe. That something only needs to be as big as a grain of mustard seed (Matt. 17:20, Luke 17:6). God in His graciousness set Himself to make a personal relationship between an absolutely holy God and non-holy people a reality. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves—He will make them like His Son, Jesus Christ. He knows our wanting and says, “Ok, I am going to make it possible.” He knows our hearts and selects us based upon our wanting to be with Him.
God has set eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11) and He knows whether we have deliberately crushed its witness, or not. He knows if that gift given to us at birth stirs desire in us to know the One who gave us life. God fans that flame He set in us and if it results in longing to know Him then He graciously provides for us what we cannot do for ourselves, including the gift of living faith. He does all this through the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
By His foreknowledge He also knew His people would not be welcome in this world. He has planted us on this earth as foreigners but He wants us to know that we are never outside of His kingdom. We may be from Canada, Yugoslavia, Germany, or Korea, whatever our background, it does not matter. We are never beyond God’s borders. Wherever we go in this world, whether it is Guatemala, Afghanistan, Australia or the cold tundra of Antarctica we are never beyond God’s borders. We are citizens of His kingdom. He welcomes us all into His kingdom, equally, with power and with love and with the same grace. There are no have-nots in God’s kingdom. Our citizenship belongs to Him if we live for Him and say, “Lord, you are my master. Lord, I want my life to be in your formation, shaped by you.”
Foreknowledge, catch this, is not the same as cause. This is where the predestination concept runs astray. This view says that because He knows what is going to happen, He makes it happen. Remember the parade analogy. Just because God has a higher perspective than we do and can see things we cannot does not mean He causes everything to happen. In order to balance His will with the free will He has given man, He allows certain things to happen. It is a complicated balancing act only God can handle. God is never surprised or overwhelmed by our situation. Remember when Jesus was in the boat sleeping in the back during a violent storm? Peter, a guy who grew up by the sea, knew the storms, knew how to operate a boat, and knew how serious a situation they were in, thought they were going to drown. And Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. Why? He is waiting for them to call upon Him to help so He can demonstrate who He is. God tells us, “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). God is waiting for us to call upon Him. He wants to share in our lives.
Peter is very clever in his greeting. He uses as a teaching tool what his readers saw as a negative experience to instruct them in some important theological truths. They had been ripped from their homes in Rome and moved to an area unfamiliar to them. They were literally selected by Caesar for relocation. They were literally planted in a new land making them foreigners to the native inhabitants. Selection, foreigners, and planted were not words which brought positive memories for Peter’s readers. Peter takes these words and teaches them that being a Christian is similar in some important ways. They had been selected by God for salvation in contrast to being selected by Caesar for relocation. They were God’s foreigners because God’s spirit and ways are unlike the world’s spirit and ways and they were to “be holy, because [God] is holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44). And they were planted on this earth to represent God to a lost and dying world. Selected, foreigner, and planted by Caesar’s hand was a bad thing. Selected, foreigner, and planted by God’s hand was a good thing.
Are you living as a selected foreigner who has been planted in a place where God wants you to bear fruit? Do you realize you are living a life that God understands. He sees the beginning from the end. He knows the whole path. He has dreams and hopes for you. Know that you are chosen by Him. That He wants you on His team. He says, “I want you with me. I want you to be a part of my family. I claim you and I want you to stand for me.” God wants you to know that life is about more than making a living, more than getting through life and retiring. God has a plan that gives hope that is beyond anything this world can offer.
1 Peter 1:2: The Trinity and Our Salvation
1 Peter 1:1-2: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
The Trinity has been debated and has been an enigma, is probably the best word for it, for 2,000 years. How do you describe a God who is one and three? There have been a lot of illustrations that have attempted to make it clearer to our understanding. The word Trinity is not in the Bible. It was coined about 200 years after Jesus was born by a man named Tertullian. Because God is revealed as three in one way and yet one in union, he brought the tri- and the union together. He formed the word “Trinity” to explain God’s revealed nature in the Bible. By using that word he meant that God is revealed to us as three separate personalities and yet He is one in essence and purpose.
We try to come up with illustrations to explain the reality of what the Bible reveals but does not explain. One of the very first ones was given by St. Patrick the patron saint of Ireland. Can you imagine what analogy he came up with? Come on. Yes, the shamrock with three leaves. He pointed out that the shamrock has three leaves but is one clover. It has some merit but it also has some downfalls. There have been other attempts to illustrate the Trinity. The egg, with the shell, the white, and the yolk. It is all one egg but three parts. How about the tree? There are roots, the trunk, and branches. A coin—there are the front, the back, and the rim. You cannot have one without all. They are united, but they are different. One very popular one right now—I am a father, a husband, and a son. But these illustrations and others like them fall far short of who God is. Others include the mathematical illustration. One plus one plus one equals three, but one times one times one equals one. Ok, that is nice and cute but it does not really explain anything to me. Others have used the three branches of government functioning together for a common cause (or at least should be)--the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. They all fail because they all end up trivializing the omnipotent, all-powerful, infinite, eternal Creator. They are trying to put Him in a little box, in terms that we can understand but they make Him analogist to something we can hold in our hands, that we can grasp in our minds.
We have a God that is beyond everything in this world. But that does not mean that He is unknowable. In fact, the way that Peter starts off 1 Peter, He talks about God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--as if He is his best friend. He is talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as if they are someone that he personally knows, not just a theological concept. Peter knows the Trinity. Peter lived with Jesus, the Son. He heard Jesus talk about God His Father. And He was indwelled by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and experienced firsthand the power and mystery of the Spirit in his life. He knows the Trinity.
Peter does not give an illustration of it, he just states the roles of each. I know many of you expect me to come up with some sort of object lesson. But I am not going to trivialize God, our Creator, our Designer, our Redeemer, our eternal Lord and Savior. I am going to follow Peter’s lead. We need to look at what Peter says about it. Peter knows the Trinity. Peter does not try to simplify God. He expresses the reality of God in his life. Because knowing about God is not nearly as important as knowing God. I can know all kinds of things about Theo, but it is more important to know Theo than it is to know about him. One way of knowing him is external, the other is internal and personal. We are designed by God to have a personal relationship with Him.
The idea of God somehow being a plurality but yet singular was revealed to us in the first verse of the Bible. It says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word for God there is Elohim. It is the plural of a noun. In the beginning “Gods” is the way we have to interpret it. So right from the start we have a mystery. Scripture teaches us that all three Persons of the Trinity had a role in Creation.
Because God’s nature is a mystery does not mean, again, that He is unknowable. Peter is saying, “I have experienced God as a Father, as a Son, and as a Spirit.” Peter’s relationship with God was far different than that of the typical Jew. The typical Jew was taught that the name of God was too holy to be spoken. We use the word Yahweh but they would not use that name but used Jehovah instead. Ironically, out of reverence they refused to speak His name but their hearts were actually far from Him. Their hearts were anything but reverential. Peter knew all about God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. That God was bigger than the Universe. It must have been shocking to hear Jesus talk about God the Creator and Sustainer as His father, to hear Jesus talk about “Yahweh” as father, daddy. How did Jesus teach us to pray? “Our Father.” “Here is how I want you to address the King of the Universe. ‘Father, dad, you are awesome. May Your will be done. May it be done in my life.’” He wants us to come to Him and talk with Him and relate to Him. He does not want us to stand off to the side and say all kinds of fancy things and make neat sounds but have our hearts be far from Him. He wants us to communicate our hearts, our needs, our passions, our hurts to Him. He wants a personal relationship.
His adoption of us offers us a new heritage. Listen closely to Galatians 4:3-7 and Ephesians 1:3-8. Galatians 4:3-7: “So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Ephesians 1:3-8: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” As His children we have all the rights, privileges, and blessings that come from being rightly related (through Christ and His work for us) to Him.
Peter was the son of a fisherman. Peter and Andrew’s father, John or Simon bar Jonah, was a fisherman and passed on his family business to his sons. That was their inheritance. “My dad was a fisherman, my dad’s dad was a fisherman, my dad’s, dad’s, dad was a fisherman. I guess I’ll be a fisherman, too.” But Jesus came into his life and the God of creation gave him a new identity and a new heritage.
I am the son of a farmer. For all intents and purposes, I should be up on a farm in Saskatchewan. My brother is a farmer. All the friends that I grew up with, my best friends, are farmers. God gave me a new inheritance. Gave me something different. Being a farmer is just an occupation. What I want you to know is the inheritance I have is an eternal inheritance with God, the master of creation for all eternity.
Peter says he knows the Spirit. Most of us have a problem understanding the Spirit. We think of the Spirit sometimes as a power, as a force, as a guiding push, as a nudge. Is it my conscience, my inner dialogue, or is it the Spirit I hear, or sense? Is it a voice? What is it? The Spirit is the person of God speaking and moving on individual hearts in individual ways throughout the world all at the same time. It is God’s personal presence in us. Jesus talks about the Spirit being our guide, our counselor, our helper, and our comforter. He ministers personally to us.
The word holy is normally used as an adjective. An adjective describes in some way a noun—a person, place, thing, or idea. Scripture associates the word holy with the Spirit of God that it becomes part of His name. It is more than holy Spirit—which describes the Spirit of God as holy in His character. Holy so describes what He is that Scripture uses it as part of His proper name—Holy Spirit.
It is for this reason that sanctification becomes an important issue. Sanctification is a word that we often do not like because it sounds like it is going to be hard and painful. Anybody want to be sanctified? It kind of sounds like sanitized. Like being put in a dryer at 5,000 degrees and turned over and over and over until you say, “Ok, I give up.” Sanctified is a word that means selected and purified. God selects with the purpose of setting some apart for His righteous purposes. And in order for that to be a reality they need to be purified—made holy. “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” God says. Sanctification’s main goal is intimate relationship with God. And for this reason being cleansed or cleaned up is vitally important. It addresses the purifying of our hearts. The Holy Spirit works inside us to convict us of sin, to help us understand sound judgment, to use wisdom in the choices we make, and strengthens us to do His will.
All religions have a belief in a god or gods and that there is some kind of spirit realm. That there is something out there. Something responsible for this world we live in. But where Christianity stands apart, is that God came in the form of a man to live and walk with us. Not a god as in Greek mythology, who was more like a superhuman, but God incarnate—God’s personality and character represented in human form. His name was Jesus and He died as the Son of God on a cross in atonement for our sins. If Jesus is not the incarnate Son of God, then He is just a martyr, a prophet who was killed for believing in his cause. If Jesus was a mere man then there is no atonement for our sins, no redemption, no forgiveness based on His purposeful death and shed blood. Without Jesus, we will stand on our own before God, totally accountable for everything that we have done. Is that something you feel comfortable with?
Do you remember who first declares Jesus as the Son of God? Who first said of Jesus, “you are the Son of God.” Our mind goes to Peter. That is where my mind went. But before Peter said that, there were some disciples in a boat and they saw Jesus walking to them on the water and said among themselves, “He must be the Son of God.” This was two chapters before Peter made his declaration. But even before that, Jesus heals a person by casting-out demons and the departing demons declare to Him, “Who are you son of God. Why do you come and torment us?” The demons recognized and called Him the Son of God. Before the demons’ declaration, we find Satan himself saying, “If you are the Son of God, then cause these stones to become bread.” And “If you are the Son of God, then cast yourself off this temple.” Satan himself recognized Jesus as the Son of God. But before Satan’s acknowledgement, God the Father said at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” But even before God the Father said that, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and then also to Joseph and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child that she has is from the Holy Spirit and He will be called the Son of God.” The Son of God is not a concept that Peter made up. It is not a designation that Jesus gave to Himself. It is a name given to Him by God the Father that declared who He is. God the Father is essentially saying, “This is my essence in human form. This is Me walking in flesh with you. I am pleased with Him.”
It is the Son who gives the new covenant. If you look in 1 Peter 1:2, it says, “By the foreknowledge of God the Father through the sanctifying of the Spirit for obedience unto Christ by the sprinkling of His blood.” That is the way we translate it from the Greek. But literally in the Greek it says, “For obedience and sprinkling by Jesus Christ.” “For obedience and sprinkling” is tied together with prepositions that do not seem to fit and theologians have a hard time trying to fit these things together. There is a reason why Peter does it this way. If you look back at Exodus chapter 24, you see the commitment that God makes to the people of Israel. “You will be my people.” In Exodus chapter 24, verse 7, it says, “Moses took the book of the covenant and read it to the people and they responded,” ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’ Then Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.’”
The night before Jesus was crucified, He gathered with His disciples for the Passover meal. He took the bread and broke it and said, “This is my body which is given for you.” Then He took the cup and said, “This is the cup of the covenant that is purchased by my blood.” His blood established the new covenant and Peter says that we are called to obedience and sprinkling by Jesus’ blood. It means we are welcomed into a new covenant with God by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. He is the one who ushers us into a new relationship with God. Is that any surprise to us? For there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved. He is the one who will bring us into a right relationship with the Father.
Yes, He was a man who walked and taught great things. But He is also the Son of God. He is also the one that died on the cross for me. To bring me into a new relationship with God the Father. That I was made to call Him the Father. And Jesus the Son is the one who comes as God in flesh to help us know how to live. I remember I went to Colorado a few years ago and went fly-fishing. Before I left I got a fly fishing rod and practiced casting in my backyard and driveway. I was breaking off flies left and right. In Colorado, I saw a guy in the middle of the stream casting for trout. By observing him I realized the way I was doing it was not correct. I got someone to show me how to do it. I knew how to do it, two o’clock, ten o’clock, two o’clock, ten o’clock. Did not work very well. Did not go very far. I snapped off all the flies. Someone had to show me how to do it. Jesus came and showed us how to live, how to respond to injustices, how to respond to anger and hurt, how to have compassion for the people no one seems to care about, how to live and walk as a godly man or godly woman, how to avoid temptations, how to keep your cool in frustrating situations. Jesus gave Peter and us a model to follow.
God says to do the right thing. What does that look like? When you have someone’s footprints to follow, it makes things so much clearer, so much easier. That is why Peter told Mark the life of Jesus. Luke wrote to us and told us the life of Jesus. John writes again and tells us the life of Jesus. Follow these footprints. He is the Son of God and calls us to call upon the same Father so that we will live as His brothers and sisters, children of the living God. Follow His footprints. Jesus came to Peter and says, “I invite you to follow me.” I want you to walk with me so you see how things work, so you see how I relate to the Father, so you see how I connect with Him, how I depend upon Him.” This is a big thing for Peter. Peter really loves to do things himself, does not he? Jesus says, “There is nothing that I have done that I have not done with the power of the Father. Even the miracles that I have done have not been done in my power but in the power of the Father.” Jesus teaches a dependence, a connection with God the Father not seen before. We have a God who has given us footprints to follow.
Do you know God the Father or is He a concept to you? Do you just know about Him? Do you know the Trinity? Is your life secured by knowing a Creator who wants you, who loves you, who holds you close to His heart? Not a God who puts up with you. I mean, sometimes we are in marriages because the other person is putting up with us. Sometimes we are in homes because our parents put up with us. But He wants us. He invites us to fellowship with Him. Not that He should not kick us out. He should take us to the orphanage. We have run away from home and He still welcomes us back--the parable of the prodigal son. He looks and He runs for us as we return to Him. “How long I have been waiting for you to come back to me.” He wants you. He loves you. He holds you and looks for the future of eternity with you. I do not understand that, but I am thankful for it.
Katie babysits Amy a couple days a week, three or four days a week now. And she sits there and holds that baby for six to eight hours and just loves on her. Every little thing Amy does is an inspiration to her. I do not understand it. That is why God gave us men and women to work together in raising families--different gifts, different abilities. God has made us differently. Thank God for women, for moms who love children and nurture and care for them. Your heavenly Father is like this. He loves His children and patiently works to bring the best to their lives.
Do you know the Holy Spirit? Are you turning a deaf ear to God’s guidance or are you listening to Him? Are you listening to His leadership, letting the Holy Spirit lead your heart and give direction to your life? Or are you doing whatever you feel like doing when you feel like doing it? We talk about God’s nudge. We have talked about that a number of times. God says, “Oh, you’re missing out. You think it is for them? You think I am asking you to do something so that their life is going to be better? You are going to be so blessed by helping, by getting involved, by engaging, by knowing and just seeing what I will do if you trust Me. Your heart will be encouraged if you just listen to me.” And then you follow through and learn that His ways are best.
Scripture talks about grieving the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? God may say, “Here is a great opportunity. Call, they need some encouragement right now.” And you say, “No, I do not want to. I do not know what to say. I am not sure. I will not.” The Holy Spirit is grieved. But when you listen to what God says, the Spirit rejoices. Do you not love it when a plan comes together? So does God.
Do you understand that God really knows you? That God, because He walked this earth understands the frustrations, the pain, the temptations, the struggles that you face. You have a God who knows your heart, who knows you better than your own brother. When Jesus walked with Peter, Peter’s brother, Andrew, was also there. But Jesus knew Peter better than Andrew knew Peter. Jesus knew what was in his heart. He knew how to motivate, how to inspire, how to challenge, how to grow him. We have a God who knows us, who knows what we need. Will you let Him lead your life?
Do you know the Trinity? Not knowing about the Trinity but knowing the Trinity. Is the Trinity a confusing, theological concept to you or is it a vibrant personal relationship? God designed us to have a personal, vibrant relationship with Him. Not, “I know all about God. I have big books that have all kinds of words about God.” God says, “I would rather sit down and talk so we can get to know each other.”
Are you listening to God? Build a relationship with Him. You do that by simply saying “Yes” to God. Are you saying “Yes” to God or are you saying, “Hold on. I will get back to you later. I will put you on call waiting and maybe I will check my messages later.” I think of Peter Verkaik. He went to Africa twenty years ago and I have not heard him say, “Oh, I am sorry I went to Africa.” If you have not talked to Peter, know that Africa has made his life. He is going to spend eternity remembering and cherishing the years that he spent in Africa. He could have been a housepainter for another twenty years. He could have painted my house for me. Would that not be a great memory? Not nearly as much as leading hundreds of people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God is at work in his life and it has made his life richer. And because of his obedience the lives of many have been blessed, as well.
We have a God who knows us. You say, “But I do not want to. He might make me a missionary in Africa.” He will make you want to be a missionary in Africa before He will make you a missionary to Africa. He will let your heart say, “Oh, God, I do not know. But I trust you and so here we go.” And God will be there. Will you say “Yes” to Him? If you have not ever accepted Him as your personal Savior, will you say, “Yes, Lord. I accept the sacrifice that you made on the cross. I acknowledge that you alone are the way of salvation. You alone are God and I am tired of fighting you. I want to know you. I submit my heart to what you have done for me. Lord, come into my life.” Are you going to say “Yes” to the Spirit’s witness about Christ? Are you willing to start praying and listening to God’s guidance in your heart and life? He wants to guide you . He is on your side. Will you listen?
1 Peter 1:3: The Gift of Living Hope
1 Peter 1:3: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
I like Peter because Peter is a man who understands life. Peter is, what I call, a real man. He has real problems. He looks for real solutions. He has real frustrations. He has real relationships. He has real arguments and debates. He sticks his foot in his mouth. He is not afraid to take action. He is a man who wants to see things happen, wants to make a difference in his world, wants to understand who God is, who he is, and how he should act in response to that.
As later chapters in 1 Peter indicate, Peter is writing to a bunch of people that have a lot of the same situations and problems that we face. They face frustrations and exploitation at work. They face disillusionment and frustrations at home. They face exasperation with their kids, economic pressures, and debates and bickering and jealousy with their neighbors. Peter writes to them a message of hope. Peter wants to bring the power of the resurrection life to their lives.
The resurrection is not simply something that occurred in history but something that occurs in individual lives as God enters and brings new life to our hearts and lives. He has given us something that we cannot earn ourselves. He has given us a living hope that is in something that is beyond ourselves. Peter’s words describe the reality of the resurrection to life in ways that directly affect us. His resurrection means that He is no longer sealed in a tomb in the foothills of Jerusalem but He is alive and at work in lives today.
The living hope that Peter has through Christ is something he wants us to understand and savor. He wants the new life we have in Christ to truly make a difference in our lives. He wants us to know that it is a living hope; that it will animate, energize our lives if we let it permeate the substance of our lives.
Many times when we hear the word hope, we think of something that might be possible. How many hope to win the lottery? Anybody? How many think you ever will? I mean, it is one of those possibilities but it does not direct or give meaning to our lives. This kind of hope is a dead hope; merely having it does not bring spiritual substance and blessing to our lives. Unlike a gambling addiction, the living hope Peter is talking about is actually God’s method of bringing spiritual strength and blessing to our lives.
We have a God who knows what we need; a God who will give us what we need; a God who wants to walk through all the situations that we face. That is a God who brings hope. We all need hope, want hope, cannot live without hope. Without hope, the soul dies, Solomon says. The professor of the medical school at Harvard did some research and he studied and diagnosed patients for years going through serious illnesses and he found that what people need from him as much as a prescription, as much as a diagnosis, is hope. Hope is just as important as giving them the name of the problem they have and as much as giving them the prescriptions for the problem they have. They do not simply want to understand what it is, they want to have hope that they can get through it.
This doctor was asked, “What have you found hope to mean, then.” He said, “Hope is the ability to see a path to the future.” Did you hear that? “Hope is the ability to see a path to the future.” Hope can get us beyond our disabilities, beyond our threats, beyond our circumstances. God the Father has given us a new birth and living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the only God of hope. You need to recognize that. The Assyrians, the Persians, the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans, the Greeks, they all had their gods and goddesses--gods of war, gods of weather, gods of storms, gods of love and sex and other gods for different things but none of them had a god of hope. They are gods that do things to you, not do things for you. They are gods that work outside there, none of them work in here, our hearts. Our God works in us, not simply to control our circumstances, although He does do this, not to simply make life easier, although following His ways will keep us out of a lot of trouble, not necessarily to fix things out there, although He does respond to prayer and works in our circumstances, but to work in hearts. He is a God that makes a difference in us so that we can make a difference in the world around us. He wants to partner with us not hog all the glory like the pagan gods of the ancient world.
When something tragic or difficult comes into our lives, I hear many people say, “Why is God doing this to me?” They make it sound like God is the pitcher on the mound throwing us curve balls and fastballs, just winging them by us. God is the opponent on the mound throwing balls at us. “And doggone, it is not fair. I mean, He is more powerful than I am, how can I hit those balls?” But that is the wrong image. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is more like our batting coach. He is not the opponent. He is the one on our side saying, “Ok, when it leaves the pitcher’s hand you have to pick up the spin, you have to know which way it is going to go, which way it is going to be break. You have to pick it up early as it comes off his hand. You have to keep your feet well planted, now. Stay in the box. Stay in the box. Keep the bat level.” We have a God who is not there to try to make us look silly. He is not standing against His children. He is for us and He never gives up. He stands against His enemies but His children are not His enemies. Yes, there is discipline (Remember, discipline is different than punishment. Great athletes and their coaches discipline themselves to do the best for their bodies so that they can perform at the highest level. It can be accompanied with great struggle and pain but the end in view is to be the best they can be.) to mold us to be like Jesus Christ. But no, God is not against His children.
Let me ask, what kind of hope do you have? What is your hope? When you think about your hope, what is the characteristic of your hope? Is it a merry-go-round hope? Just round and round, every week it is something different; no stability in your life. Or is there some consistency in your hope? A hope that helps you look beyond your present situation, helping you see those things that really matter; a hope that can bring stability to your life.
Is it a fading hope? Is it a hope that once was really bright but now it is worn out? The exuberance of youth is often deadened by the realities of life in a fallen world. When hope fades depression often sets in to block the pain of life without the promise of a bright future. We just sort of settle in to a life marked by everyday problems and issues. When we are young the future is “out there” but when we age the future becomes “now” and when it does not match what we had hoped for our hope fades and an emotional dullness takes its place. A fading hope is a hope that is losing faith in its trusted object..
Is it a disillusioned hope? A disillusioned hope expects more than what reality delivers. Christians can have disillusioned hope. “Man, I had all these great hopes but nothing has changed. I became a Christian and God’s letting me down. I am still married to the same woman (or same man). I still have problems. My kids are still being kids. I thought when I became a Christian, God was going to make everything great inside and outside; He was going to make everything work well, that people, even Christians, were not going to be people anymore. They are going to be little angels and do everything right. I am surprised by the sameness of my problems.” And that sounds good except I do not want that I have to be that way. We want everyone else to do the right thing, everyone else to be fair, everyone else to be kind, everyone else to be generous, but I want to make sure I still got control of what I do and how good I want to be. And when it seems expedient to not do the right thing to get what I want then I want to be able to do that.
Peter understands disillusionment. He was not expecting the guards and crowds that came to capture and eventually crucify Jesus. Everything he was looking towards was gone and all of a sudden it is just shattered. They thought they had found the Messiah, but then He was beaten and killed. What are we going to do now? They are after us, too.” He had a disillusioned hope, but out of that darkness the resurrection brought a living hope. Not just Jesus coming alive again but there is a God who is alive and overseeing all things. That is more powerful than any of the barriers that we can face.
Do you have a blind hope? “I just trust God,” you might say. “I just trust God? I do not know what He promises or have the guidance of the knowledge of His ways, but I just keep moving forward, flaying away at life.” But you do not understand life nor have a grasp on what God says to do and how He says to do it. You do not understand His word and the richness of His promises and the guidelines that He gives for us. It is just a blind hope. And it is for this reason that Peter in 2 Peter instructs the recipients of his letter to “grow in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord…. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness….”
Do you have a false hope? Wishful thinking? Is the object of your faith unworthy of the trust you place in him, her or it? You almost give this object godlike qualities that demand your absolute trust. But as this world soon reveals nothing but God is worthy of our absolute trust, all others will disappoint. That is why God calls us to forgiveness and forbearance. “Well, I just hope my kids are going to get better.” Parents, if you do not parent your kids, your kids are not going to get better. That is why God gave you to them. God gave parents kids and gave kids parents to work together and grow. Husbands, God gave you wives to help you be better. We need encouragement to be the best we can be. Men, you need to lift your wives up and strengthen them. Do you squeeze the hope right out of your ladies? Or do you seed hope, love, and affection in their lives? That is what Jesus brings to our lives.
Is your hope rooted in the promises of God? Do you live like there is more to this life than just what we can see around us? Do you have a living hope based upon the presence of the Creator in your life? Jesus described Himself as a fountain welling up into life, a living hope, a hope that is like water coming out of an effervescent spring. It is bubbling up and gives life to everything around it. So many times we feel like we are living in a desert, empty of hope, empty of morality, empty of spiritual life. But God says, “Let my life flow up into you and you will start being the first palm tree in that oasis of bareness at your workplace, your school, or your family.”
The resurrection of Jesus means hope for new life. People talk about being born again. What does that really mean? Let me ask you, how many of you have been physically born? How do you know? Is it because you have a birth certificate, or heard your mother’s stories about a difficult labor, or seen the baby pictures in the family picture album? You know you have been born because you are alive, because there is life in you. You have a heartbeat and brain activity, both signs of life. Ok, now let me ask you, have you been born again? How do you know? Some might say, “Well, in my Bible, I walked down the aisle, and right there on page four, it says June 3, 1962. Someplace it is written down that I was baptized and that I prayed the prayer they told me to pray.” How do you know you have been born again? Is it because you have done something? Because you have a record of it somewhere? Or because someone has told you you did something when you were a child? Or perhaps you were baptized as an infant? Let me ask you, again, how do you know you have been born again?
To be born the first time is to receive physical life. To be born again is to become alive toward God. It is to become spiritually connected to God and open to His ways and life. It is our spiritual nature finding its home in God through Jesus Christ. It is to be free from the perversion of our spiritual nature as found in all the religions that promise godhood through cult-specific practices. And it is to be free from the masquerade of worshiping at the altar of humanistic pride. To be born again is to be free to live as God designed us to live. Is there spiritual life in you? I did not ask if you had a spiritual nature. You do. I asked you if you are spiritually alive toward God through Jesus Christ. Is there spiritual life in you? That is the sign that you belong to God—spiritual life.
What does that mean? Early in Jesus’ ministry Nicodemus did not understand it. The disciples did not understand it. Jesus had to explain it. John 3:1-5: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’"
Being born again means you are born and made alive to God. You become His son, His daughter, you are connected with Him in a special way. You become alive to Him and His ways. There may be stumbles along the way but the direction of your life gives indication that you belong to God; that there is spiritual life in you. You become sensitive to Him and His ways. You are saying, “God, I want to be adopted into your family. I want to be part of your family. I have been aligned with the world and I see what the world offers and how the world is and I turn from it to You. I am David, son of Dan, but I want to be David, son of Elohim--David bar Elohim. I want to be Julie beth Elohim, Julie, daughter of Elohim. I want to be Fred, son of God, not simply Fred, son of Max."
When I came into my family, I did not even know I was alive. Little Amy, our granddaughter, is six months old. She does not even know she is alive. I could say, “Honey, are you alive?” And she would look at me and smile and make some unintelligible sound. Well, I know she is alive--she eats, she sleeps, she hugs, she smiles, and she poops. So, I know she is alive but she does not grasp it yet. And for some of us, you say, “Spiritually, I am not sure I am alive.” Let me ask you, Do you eat, do you sleep, do you hug, do you smile, and do you poop? My example is a bit crude but I am talking spiritually before God. You understand a little bit of what the Christian life and relationship with God is all about and although you have some joyous times in the Lord you keep on making messes and stinking up the place. You are not yet mature. But there is something in you that wants things to be different—you want to do things God’s way and you want a closer relationship with Him. God wants to grow you. God wants you to turn to Him. He says, “Come to me, and confess. Let us get you cleaned up and get you going again.” Pretty soon you are going to get tired of making that mess and stinking up your world. Lord knows the rest of the family is tired of it. So, God says, “Let us get things going. Let us get things cleaned up and we will start growing together.”
We have a three-year old in our family and she wants everything her way. How many of you were three years old? You know you acted the same way. She needs to learn she is not the queen of the world. It is a scary thing for a three-year old to be queen of the world and have everything that she wants. As parents our responsibility is to say “no” at the appropriate time. “Four cookies for lunch is not a healthy thing for a three-year old. You need some carrots, some other things.” “But I do not want carrots!” “I know, but I want you to be healthy and grow strong, mature. I want the best for you.” We have a God who wants what is best for us.
God does not say, “Oh, I want you in my family” and just grab you and drag you off. He does not kidnap us into the family of God. He says, “If you do not want to be here, you do not have to. I want you. I know it is the best, but I am not going to make you go.” He gives us that choice. He wants a relationship with us and if you have never made that choice, make it. God as seen in Christ is nothing to be ashamed of.
Tom Brady is a man who has dated actresses and supermodels and made millions of dollars in his football career. Recently he got married to a beautiful supermodel. He has won 3 Super Bowls before age 30. By most popular standards, he has it all. That is why the following statement during a December 2007, 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft reminds me of things Solomon said in Ecclesiastes—things concerning the ultimate inability of the things of this world to fulfill the human heart: "Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there is something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what is.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, 'God, there has to be more than this.' I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be." When Kroft asked him, "What's the answer?" Brady responded, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find."
Contrast this with someone who has also won a Super Bowl but who has a different perspective on life; a different hope beyond the things of this world. Tony Dungy said the following: “The Super Bowl is great, but it’s not the greatest thing. My focus over the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl was Matthew 16:26 in which Jesus asks, ‘And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?’ Our guys could gain all the accolades and success of this world yet lose touch with their priorities, their principles, and the God who loves them.” And: “That’s what this is all about. Touching lives. Building a legacy – not necessarily on the field but in those places that most people will never see. Trying to be faithful in the position God has given me. I love coaching football, and winning a Super Bowl was a goal I’ve had for a long time. But it has never been my purpose in life. My purpose in life is simply to glorify God. We have to be careful that we don’t let the pursuit of our life’s goal, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose.” What is the difference? One has been born to God and listens to Him. The other is still searching and is aware of the emptiness in his heart.
Resurrection does not mean simply starting over. It means starting over with something better. Many of us have computers and we know the old control-alt-delete and restart and you get the same thing you had before. Hopefully the bugs are gone, but you have the same thing. The new birth that God offers us has all new software with it. It is starting again with a new program. It is starting again with a new connection. It is starting again with someone who really understands and who understands the bugs that have gotten you in the past and knows how to give you the help to get you past it.
There is a commercial on right now, especially being spring, about Claritin. You have probably seen it. They are showing a picture of a valley with green meadows and trees and some flowers. You can see it out there but it is hazy. And then they peel back a layer and suddenly everything becomes crystal clear. You can really see the way things are, what is out there. You can see things more clearly. And that is one of the benefits of the new birth that God gives us. We start seeing life more clearly from His perspective. You are not muddling through life like a blind man trying to find his way. Trust God. Let His living hope direct you, but you have to trust Him first.
If you are His child, if you have been born again, then you are not God’s enemy. Not only is He your Savior and Lord, but He is your coach and wants to help you knock the ball out of the park. A medical doctor said, “Hope is a path that leads you to a better future.” Where is your path leading you? Is it winding down through years and your best hope is just to get through it, unscathed and then to die and be in one piece when you are put in that coffin? Or is there something more that you are hoping for? A walk with God makes life worthwhile and gives you a future with Him. It gives you a life that has God’s handiwork imprinted on it; it is not just you and your efforts. We have a God that wants to make the most of the days we have, the most of the relationships we have, the most of the time and energy and work that we do. Do not waste it by living without Him. He wants to be a part of your life. Say “yes” to God! And keep saying “Yes” to Him until the day you die. As retired pastor Al Bishop said in his message, “Aging: Finishing Well”: “I want to encourage you. Let the Holy Spirit, the sovereign Holy Spirit who will prick your conscience, guide you, and instruct you, do His thing in your life. What He does in you, live it out enthusiastically. Finish the race God has given you. And I pray that you can say with Paul, ‘I have endured and finished what God has given me to do.’ Finish well, my dear friends!”
1 Peter 1:3-5: Salvation, Inheritance and the New Birth
1 Peter 1:3-5: “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He has also given us a new birth into an inheritance that may never perish, spoil, or fade, that’s kept in heaven for each one of you. Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Peter is writing to a group of people and telling them what he hopes to see happen in their lives because of the resurrection. He wants them to know that the resurrection demonstrates God’s power to assure their future. The resurrection shows us that we have a God who is the Lord of the future. He is the one who holds the future in the palm of His hand. He is the God of the future.
The resurrection also has important meaning for our present lives, as well. Peter wants us to know that the reality of the resurrection not only assures the future for those who receive Christ as their Savior but it means new life now. He talks about it in terms of a new birth and a living hope. It is something that Peter wants to be real and viable to them as they live their daily lives. He said, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He has also given us a new birth into an inheritance that may never perish, spoil, or fade, that’s kept in heaven for each one of you. Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Peter is writing to people who need hope. They had been displaced from their homes, they had lost their property, they lost their inheritance and Peter wants them to know that there is hope for them.
They are people who need something more in their lives because they have lost everything that they have known and he wants to let them know that even though they have lost their earthly inheritance their heavenly Father has an inheritance for them that no one can take away. The power of Caesar has not protected them but they have received a salvation that protects their souls and destiny forever. Peter wants them to know that everything they have lost pales in comparison to the life God wants them to have. Peter wants them, and us, to understand what salvation means. It is not just a future thing or something by which we are saved from something bad. The salvation God gives is more positive than negative—it involves gifts and blessings more than being spared punishment and pain. He wants it to inspire them to live courageously and more powerfully as they keep their eyes on the present but hearts in the future.
Let us look at the inheritance we are going to have. Inheritance through the ages has usually been tied to property. When we think about getting an inheritance most of the time we think of money. Just cash it out. Sell the farm. Give me the cash. But often it is related to property. Someone inherits property. When my father wrote his will, he left me an inheritance. He left me 2,000 acres of Canadian farmland. But I determined, “John Deere is great, but I would rather do something else.” My brother has claimed that inheritance. My brother is a farmer in Canada. My brother has inherited that farm and it carries on.
What I want you to connect with is that Peter is writing to an audience that has lost its inheritance. Some of them he is writing to were businessmen or property owners in Rome who were given three days to clear out of Rome and then put on a ship and sent to a distant land far from the conveniences of Rome. It would be like leaving a large city and going to Fargo, North Dakota, no, five miles outside Fargo, against your will. It would be culture shock. They had been in the center of culture, in the center of the western world. Rome is where everything happened. It was bristling with activity. All of a sudden they were moved to a rugged region far from the modern conveniences of Rome. What a sense of lose. The property they had that they were going to give to their children—dowries, businesses, occupations, land—was gone. They had lost their inheritance. It is not just that they lost the inheritance they wanted to pass on, but their kids have lost the future promise of inheritance that was supposed to secure their future. I can lose something for me and I say, “Oh man.” But when I lose something that is going to go to Scott or Ryan or Kara, something I want to pass on to my children, it breaks my heart. We want to help them to be able to do better than we have done. They felt like they had lost their inheritance and so Peter writes them about a more sure inheritance. They have an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade away. They have an inheritance that cannot be stolen from them but that is secure in God’s mighty hand.
Five things about this inheritance I want to point out to you. First, our inheritance is a literal place where we belong. So often when we visualize our inheritance in heaven, we envision an ethereal place where people are floating around on clouds and it is a very mystical place. But I want you to see that the life God has reserved for us is going to be like the life we have now. It will be so much like the life we have now that we are going to be shocked. But it will be without the defilement, the sin, the resentment, the anger, the deception, and the hatred. I can imagine hard work and struggle being a part of the New Earth. There is no better time for people to come together and show love and compassion and care for one another than helping each other during the process of discovery or completing a difficult project. It is good for us to help one another. I do not see why that will not also be true in the New Earth. Anybody ever been to a barn-raising where all the neighbors get together and build somebody’s barn? I have and I can tell you it is a great time of fellowship. There is such a sense of satisfaction in helping your neighbor. I believe mutual help and support will also characterize the new life on the New Earth.
Remember what Jesus said? “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will surely come back and bring you to be where I am as well.” It does not say, “I go to create a new state of being for you.” Jesus paints the picture and Scripture overall paints a picture of a literal, physical place—a new heaven and a new earth. We are created as spatial, time-oriented beings. When the Holy City is described we find trees, rivers, the tree of life, and trees whose leaves are used to maintain health and well-being. We will be reminded of God’s gracious provision on a daily basis and our gratitude will never get old; we will never take His blessings for granted. It is a place made just for us; a place where each of us will feel needed and wanted. It will not be a mass collective of people where the individual loses his or her identity for the “good of the state.” It is a place where each of us will belong and will have a vital function and sense of purpose as each partners with God to be a blessing and help to others.
Secondly, our inheritance is a perfect place. It is even perfect with us there. It is a perfect place and it stays perfect because we will be different. Now, we mess things up. God’s plan for a situation is almost always tainted by human sinfulness, disobedience, and ignorance. The results are mixed with God working through our imperfections and sinfulness to bring about positive results. Look at the life of David. God was able to do a lot through his life but because of David’s sin and disobedience there were elements present in history that were negative and ultimately hurtful for God’s best plan for the situation. This is especially true in Solomon’s life. God had a best plan for him and Israel but despite His warnings and directions they turned from His ways and the kingdom was split in two to hinder the infection of idolatry.
In the New Heaven and New Earth God’s best plan will always be realized. We will never have to repair the damage caused by human sinfulness. We will never have to worry about the ulterior motivations of others. We will truly be set free of the effects of sin, not only in ourselves but in our relationships and environment, as well. God changes us for three reasons. He changes us, primarily, so that we can live with Him, a holy and righteous God who cannot tolerate evil. Secondly, He changes us so that we can live with each other without the effects of sin on our relationships. And thirdly, He changes us so that we can live in the perfect environment He wants for us without descending into idolatry as we “worship the creature more than the Creator.”
Have you given God permission to change you? Have you been born again into a living hope? Being born again is the first step in the change process. As Revelation 21 reveals to us, our eternal home, called the Holy City or New Jerusalem, will be a beautiful, wonderful place that will be perfectly suited for us as transformed children of God. Peter heard Jesus say a number of times, “Do not lay up treasure for yourselves on earth where moth and rust corrode or destroy, and the thief breaks in and steals. Lay up treasure for yourselves in heaven where those things do not happen for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That which we long for affects our hearts.
The Israelites were given the land as their earthly inheritance. But God’s blessing came with conditions. They were to obey Him and follow His ways. But the land of Israel was successfully conquered, destroyed, and ravaged by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and the Romans. And they were plagued by lesser peoples to where they were reoccurring irritants in Israel’s side throughout her history. When Moses saw that land it was a lush and fruitful place. But the land was constantly ravished due to the disobedience of the Israelite people. During Nehemiah’s time and after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the land was a barren wasteland. It was far from being a land of milk and honey—as God wanted it to be. That is not going to happen in the New Heaven and New Earth. Will it not be a glorious time when God’s best plan for us will be realized—forever?
Thirdly, our inheritance is not going to spoil. Our inheritance is incorruptible. We will not wake up some day to find our barn filled with rotting produce. Our homes will not crumble and decay. The holy city will shine forever in the light of God’s glory. Our inheritance will not spoil because God Himself will preserve it. God in Jeremiah expresses it this way. “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce, but you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.” How did they do that? The land was consumed by greed and jealousy and hatred and bitterness. And they lost God’s blessing. It ceased to be the wonderful place God wanted them to have.
And fourthly, it will never fade. Fading here talks about the ravages of time affecting it. It will never be outdated. It will never go away. The glories of past kingdoms fade and deteriorate. The glory of Rome, the wonderful, amazing Coliseum is a shell of its former self. The Pyramids are weathering and have been damaged by the hands of man. Many past achievements of kingdoms-gone-by no longer exist. God’s handiwork in the New Heaven and New Earth will last forever.
And fifthly, our inheritance in heaven will always be up to date. How many would like me to give you a new laptop today? It is a brand new laptop, brand new, state of the art, it is for you. And you can have it. I am giving it to you today. It is yours. I am putting your name on it, sealing it, all those things, but you cannot have it for forty years. What good is it? It will be totally out of date. The inheritance God has for us is never going to be out of date. It is exactly what we need. God suspends the law of entropy. Your inheritance in heaven does not wind down. It will always be the very best for you.
This inheritance is kept for us. It is nothing we have to hold on to. It says “is kept.” God is doing the keeping. Are you glad that you do not have to hold on to it? I got a letter from the IRS seven years ago telling me that I owed $60,000 in back taxes. UHHH! They did not have on record that I had filed a certain paper twenty years ago. HUH? You know what? I started looking for that paper. I knew I had filed it. I had claimed I had filed it for 14 years. I found it. I now have that paper locked up in my safety deposit box. I also have copies of it in four other places. Some of you on a certain page of your Bible have “became a Christian, accepted Christ as my personal Savior in 1943 or 1973 (or whatever).” “Look God, it is right here. I am saved. I am a Christian.” Are you glad you do not have to hold onto that paper to prove you belong? We can have confidence in receiving our promised inheritance because it is God Himself who keeps it secure.
God not only holds onto the inheritance, He holds onto the heirs. He holds onto us. Our eternity is held in protective custody by God. Our salvation is secure in Him. No one can pluck us from His protective hand. David says it this way. “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in him and I am helped.” David, through all the things he went through, recognized that God is the one who is protecting him. God is the one who is caring for him. God is the one who is watching out for him. “The Lord is my strength and keeps me going and is my shield. My heart trusts in him and I am helped.” This protective care is at work now. It is not just a future thing. You have no idea how many things God has prevented from happening in your life. We have a God who is actively involved in our lives, more than we know. We have a God who is at work now for our good.
Our shield is attached to us by our faith. God is the one who is protecting us, but sometimes do you feel unprotected? Sometimes are you scared or worried or concerned or doubting? And we lose our shield. We hold onto our shield with our faith. “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in him and I am helped.” I look to Him, I trust Him, I rely upon Him. “Lord, I do not know how this is going to work out, but Lord, together I know we are going to work it out. Together, I know, we are going to get through this.” Worry and doubt may attack your eternal future, which is a source of spiritual and emotional strength now, and if it does, it is because you have dropped your shield. Let the peace of God guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
How does this relate to our salvation? How many of you are saved? Are you sure? Then why does it say in verse 5 “your salvation is coming and ready to be revealed,” if it has already happened? Your salvation has not been revealed yet. Your salvation is coming. He says He will protect you until your salvation comes. Let us start thinking this thing through. What are you saved from? We are saved from hell, saved from sin, saved from ourselves, saved from the second death, saved from separation from God. The Bible says we are saved from the wrath of God that comes upon sin and rebellion. We are saved from the Great White Throne Judgment. In fact, we are not even at the Great White Throne Judgment. Do you recognize that? If you are saved, a born again Christian, you do not even have to go there because you are saved from judgment. Why? “Because there is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
How are we in Christ Jesus? It says we have been given a new birth into a new life. So, are you saved? Hmm. Well, saved is in the future. But saved also seems to have some applications here and now. And this is important. It is not just semantics. Here is what Jesus says. “It is the one who endures to the end who will be saved.” Just about every time it talks about being saved in the Bible, the New Testament specifically, it is talking about it in the simple future tense, it is something that is going to happen. You are going to be saved. Only twice is it used in the past tense--that you have been saved. But most of the time it is talking about the simple future.
In Mark, Jesus says, “he who has believed,” past tense, “and has been baptized,” past tense, “will be saved.” Past, past, future. It does not say, “he who has believed has been saved.” Hmmm. Paul makes it clear when it says in Romans, “having now been justified by His blood.” Is “justified” past, present, or future tense? Justified, -ed, that is past tense. “I have been justified.” If you are a Christian you are justified. But then it says, “we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Now, does that mean we are not saved now? “I feel like I am saved. I accepted Christ into my heart. I said “yes” to the salvation that He offers. Am I saved or not?"
Salvation is in our future, it is something we can look forward to, it is our promised end, but in some special way we are experiencing a foretaste of it now. When you read how some commentators deal with this issue you find some really interesting answers. One writer said, “the present certainty of a future salvation animates our present hope, making the eschalogical future a present reality we speak of in the past tense.” And that almost makes sense, if we do not we get lost in the verbage. A simpler way of saying it is as Peter says, “I have claimed my reservation of God’s promise of salvation now.” Peter is seeing our salvation as happening at a point in the future but is something that can be experienced now. He even says in 1 Peter 1:9, “you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” It is something going on now. First Peter 1:18 says, “you are redeemed,” past tense, “from perishable things.” We have already been redeemed. So, in a great way, we are saved now. Our lives and souls now can be empowered to live for Christ as we live in the hope of our future salvation—it is God’s method of bringing Christlikeness out of us.
Why am I bringing this up? It is important to know that salvation is in our future and is now guaranteed by the promise and power of God. And as we live by faith in this, God works it into our hearts and lives. As I stated earlier, salvation is about more than being saved from bad things. It is most about being saved for good things—God’s gifts and blessings. It is being free to enter into the blessings God had planned for all those who love and want to be with Him, those who have humbly and repentantly responded to His gracious invitation of eternal life with Him. It is for those who value God’s inheritance unlike Esau who looked on ‘the inheritance’ as a worthless thing. Being born again is vitally important but it is only the first step to what God desires for you, to what God holds for you. Being born again is the entry port into all that He has for you. It is not simply becoming a Christian; it is walking with God in a brand new life.
If you have given God permission to remake you, transform you, does your life show it? Peter wants to make Christianity real in our lives, not just a motion we go through, an action that we do. “I accepted Jesus. . . I was saved when I was in third grade. I am all done. Now I can do whatever I want because I am saved.” Does that sound like someone who has given God permission to transform them? You may not have fully understood what that remaking entails when you first came to Christ but let me ask you, does your life show that you have new life in you? Does your life show that you put value on God’s inheritance? Or have you, like Esau, dismissed what you profess by the life you live? Salvation is not about saying magical words or covering all of the bases so that you can be right with the ‘man’ upstairs. It is about being born again into a new life that starts the moment you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
Peter wants us to know that we can live strong as we live in the present with our eyes on the future. He calls it a living hope. It is God’s method of bringing His grace to a fallen world. What is growing out of your life? What is being produced? God wants to grow beautiful things in your life--relationships, caring for one another, life impacting ministries, obedience to Him. We have a God who is alive and wants to give us a living hope that motivates us to do more and be more as we walk with Him.
1 Peter 1:5-9: Grief and Appropriating Our Salvation
1 Peter 1:5-9: “who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
I cannot think of the word “grief” without thinking of Charlie Brown. When I think of the trials of Charlie Brown the one thing that comes to my mind is Lucy and the doggone football. You know, forever Lucy is promising to hold that ball and let Charlie kick it. I was looking through a Charlie Brown anthology last week and there was one where she promised she is going to hold it and that she has learned her lesson and was going to start a new friendship, a new relationship with Charlie. It is a new day, a new dawn. And so, Charlie rares back and runs at the ball and as soon as he gets there Lucy whisks it out of the way and he falls flat on his back. And he jumps back to his feet and says, “Lord, how long? How long must I endure this?” Lucy responses, “Until you die, Charlie Brown, so get used to it.”
When we normally think of hard times, we think of frustrations, we think of griefs and we think these are the things that weigh us down. These are things that color our life darkly. These are the things that we want to get away from. If we did not have all these problems, life would be so much better, we think. We could be such better people. But God tells us that those griefs, those frustrations that come into our lives, can be used, and will be used, to truly make us into better people. It is not escaping from these hard times, escaping from these griefs that make us better people, that grows us, that makes us stronger, more fulfilled people, it is learning and living through them with the living God. And when these hard times are looked at in this way they are called trials. They are no longer just bad times we have to suffer through. They are difficult times that God uses to make us more Christlike. As Paul states in Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.”
The idea is that the bad times we go through do not have to be for no purpose but that if we allow God to use them He can make us more like Christ through them. Looked at in this way they become trials of our Christian faith. Sometimes these trials are like any other difficult time everyone else in the world goes through and at other times they are unique to Christians because we are persecuted and mistreated because of our Christian faith. In these trials, our faith, trust, and love of Jesus are being tested, exposed, and purified.
Peter is a man who knows about trials. Peter knows about frustrations. He knows what it is to run for his life. He had to appear before the high priest for questioning and ridicule and experienced floggings, beatings, and jail for his faith and testimony. When he wrote this letter, he was in chains in a Roman dungeon. Peter understands what it is to suffer trials and frustrations and these people he is writing to understand what it is to suffer trials, something unjust, something that is unfair, something that reaches into their lives and changes them forever.
When I think about grief, what first comes to my mind is losing someone you love by an accident or incident that does not seem fair. And when you lose someone you love in this way, there is a gap, there is an emptiness that can never be filled by anything else. You say, “what do I do now. How can I go on living without this person? How can I go on and pretend like everything is ok because it is not. I miss them. I need them. I want them. It is not right. It is not fair.” That is the kind of injustice and suffering Peter is talking about. Can you understand that? Can you relate to that?
Peter wants to give you some answers. Peter wants to help you understand how those griefs can be turned to gold and richness in your life. Things that will happen in your life that eventually you say, “I would never have become the person I am if I had not gone through what I had to go through. I did not want to go through it. I would not want to go through it again. But look what God did when life dealt me a bad hand, because people did some wrong things, because someone made some bad decisions, look how God worked those things for my good.”
Verse six starts by saying, “In this you greatly rejoice.” The tense of the word rejoice is ambiguous. The sense is that you have rejoiced in the past, you are currently rejoicing, and you will rejoice in the future. “In this” is looking back to the salvation mentioned in verse 5. Peter is saying that despite the griefs of this world we can rejoice in the salvation that God has promised His children. Now this is a hard message that Peter is giving these people because they are angry, they are hurt, they are distressed. Understand, Peter is not just telling them, “Cheer up, put a smile on your face because God is with you.” He wants to explain to them exactly what God can do, and is doing, when these hardships happen in their lives.
This idea of rejoicing amid suffering sounds kind of crazy. I mean, if it was just Dave saying, “Ok, you got some problems. Well, be happy about those problems you have.” You would say, “This guy is not in touch with reality. He has his head in the clouds. He does not understand human emotion and the depth of feeling and where we are at and how life really is.” But it is not Dave saying it. It is God’s Word saying it through Peter. And Peter is not the only one saying it. James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of any kind.” The apostle John: “Don’t be surprised my brothers when the world hates you.” Paul: “But we also rejoice in our sufferings.” Peter says it, James says it, John says it, Paul says it, and if that is not enough, listen to the words of Jesus Himself. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you because of me. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven.”
Peter goes on to explain in the rest of verse six. “Though now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” He wants us to understand that despite the salvation that is going to be revealed later and the inheritance that God has promised His children that, now, trials and griefs are normal. How many times does something go bad in your life and you say, “What is wrong with me? Why is life against me and everybody else is doing fine?” You are feeling picked on by God. You are feeling picked on by life because something bad is happening. Folks, difficult times are normal. What did Jesus say? “You will have tribulation in this world.” And sometimes they will take your breath away. They can literally crush your spirit and break you emotionally. This world can be a very unfriendly place. That does not change when you become a Christian. What does change is that now you have Someone on your side who can use these difficult times to make you a better person, make you like Jesus Christ.
Then it says, “all kinds.” Things that God can use for my betterment, for the growing of my Christian faith, come in all sizes, all shapes, and all colors. Something that I consider a trial in my life, you would say, “Well, that is just silly.” And things that you are wrestling with, I would say, “That is just petty. That is not a big deal.” But it is vitally real to you and God can use it to grow you. I mean, if you are a parent of a middle schooler, and she comes home saying, “Jamie is not talking to me anymore.” That seems like a small thing compared to the problems you face as an adult but to her it is a real problem. Can God use this in her life? Yes, He can. So for her, at this time, it is a trial of her young Christian faith. How is she going to respond? Like Jesus, or not? It matters.
Kids look at their parents and say, “I wish I could be the parent. They have no problems. They can tell everybody else what to do.” Is that right? Do parents have problems? “I cannot wait until I get out of school. Then I do not have to go to school anymore. I can just have a job. It will be so much easier when I just have a job.” Really? Trials come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Everybody has them and none are beyond God’s ability to use for our good.
Look at 2 Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of our need to connect with God during difficult times. Paul is writing to a church that is going through all kinds of problems. He says in verse eight of chapter one, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” When we are going through tough stuff, so often people say, “God will never give you more than you can endure.” Right? How many have heard that? “It is my cross to bear it, but He will not give me more than I can bear.” That is not correct. That is inaccurate.
Let us look at this verse closely because Paul ends up saying the opposite. “Indeed, we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure.” What does that say? We could not do it. God put more on our plate than we can endure. “So we despaired even of life.” Have you ever been to a point where you do not want to live anymore because you are so frustrated and hurting? Paul continues: “It exceeded our ability to endure so we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt sentenced to death, but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” God will give us more than we can endure so we will endure with Him.
First Corinthians 10:13 speaks to this issue. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” It is more than you can endure, but God will give you the way out. God wants to work with us during difficult times. So, do you have more than you can bear? By yourself, yes. With God, no. That is God’s point. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 1:10. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” The God-supported suffering Peter and Paul went through are examples for us to follow. And notice that word “hope” again. As we saw in 1 Peter 1:3 a living hope is crucial to the Christian life. It has a purifying and nurturing effect in our lives. Paul says that he has learned that God will help when the tough situations occur because He has done so in the past. Paul has learned that the key to benefiting from trials is setting your hope on God.
Sometimes it is only through this kind of suffering that we actually turn to God. When do you pray the most? Usually, when something is not going the way you want it. Now He is on your mind all the time. Sometimes only through suffering do we begin to listen to God. Financial pride and self-confidence are painfully stripped away and we say, “I cannot do it myself. I have tried. I do not know which way to turn, Lord. You say, ask for wisdom so Lord, I am here. I need your wisdom. Guide me. Help me.”
When our suffering is self-inflicted it causes us to see sin for what it really is. When our suffering is self-inflicted we see the penalty, the problems, the frustrations that wrong decisions, ungodly decisions cause. So much of human suffering is self-inflicted. Hopefully we come to a point where we say, “I guess that is why God says, 'Do not do it!'” This type of suffering can educate us to see what sin really is and then appreciate God’s way.
Suffering and grief can also expand our ministry. If we get through difficult situations rightly, then God says, “I have others in your path that need a hand up.” How many of you have been helped when you are going through something terrible by someone else who has gone through that terrible situation before you, who has been there and gone through it? George and Corrie Verkaik lost a child and they have been instrumental in healing the hearts of couples that have also lost a child. They are able to minister to these grieving parents because they can identify with them and understand what they are going through. They became people who have walked the hard path and are in a position to help others get through it.
Holy suffering also causes us to yearn for our heavenly home. We long to be with our Lord where all tears will be wiped away. Our hearts cry, "I am so frustrated with this world. Lord, I am looking forward to what you are going to do and the way you are going to do it.” When things do not work out the way that you planned, is not that what we really want? Do not our hearts hunger for an economy that is fair and just? For everybody doing the right thing all the time? For paying employees fair wages and for employees giving fair work in return? For everybody behaving as God designed us? No prisons, no jails, no guards, just people doing the right thing? How much our hearts long for how God has intended for us to live.
Verse seven: “These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God uses the stuff that we are going through to refine and build good things in us. Do you remember in a previous Peter message that we saw that God is more like our coach rather than the opposing pitcher? God is for us not against us. A good coach is willing to put his athlete through hard times, even if he is unpopular for a short time, in order to help that athlete be the best he or she can be. God is willing to deal with your anger toward Him because of the trials you experience if it is going to result in your becoming more like Jesus Christ, His beloved Son.
There was a gold rush in Nevada in the 1980s and it amazed everyone because the gold they found could not be seen. You could magnify the gold that was in the ore they mined 1,500 times and you still could not see any gold. It was one of the richest gold strikes ever made, but you could not see it with the naked eye. They had to mine that ore and dissolve it and crush it into sand and then dissolve it in a cyanide solution and then after it reaches a certain temperature they filtrate zinc into it and finally minute particles of gold sink to the bottom. Gold that could not even be seen was mined effectively and then refined and purified. This is a good analogy because sometimes you cannot see gold in your life but God can. There are pockets of faith to grow and to be refined by God.
Then verses 8 and 9 go on to say, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Peter points out just how much of the Christian life is based on a living faith in a Christ we have never physically met. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts causes our hearts to be drawn towards Him by faith. Without actually setting our eyes on Jesus we are filled with joy because of what He has already done for us at Calvary, what He is doing for us now, and what He will do for us in the future. Although our salvation from the judgment and oppression of sin is yet a future thing, we can by faith appropriate that future reality to our present lives. We can have a foretaste of the blessings of eternal life now as we “love Him” and “believe in Him.” We have truly been given a living faith that results in a living hope that sustains and motivates us to live with and for Christ in our lives.
Our salvation is a future thing, a future event, but in some way we can say we are saved now. Why? For two reasons. First, we can say we are saved because of the promise and power of God. God said it will be so and that is good enough for me! He is holy and therefore cannot lie. He is all-powerful so no one can pluck us from His mighty hand. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are safe in Him. And second, our salvation involves more than just rescue from something negative. It chiefly involves things positive. It chiefly involves blessing rather than rescue from cursing. The chief goal of our salvation is to make us like Jesus Christ. And that process has started the moment we are born again. The Holy Spirit lives in us to mold us to be like Christ—now. As we allow the Spirit to apply resurrection power to our lives, we are set free from sin and made to be more like Christ—that is our salvation. The other future aspects of our full salvation—which includes a new body, new environment, and new intimate relationship with God the Father--are yet future things. We still await that glorious time. But God has given us a living faith so that when we believe in this future time it results in a living hope that connects us with Him and motivates and strengthens us to live with and for Him. Peter simply says, “For you are receiving the goal of your faith which is, the salvation of your souls.”
So, what good is grief? Going through it with God can help us grow to be like Christ. God wants to be involved and engaged in our lives even amid the griefs and hardships we have. He can use the difficult circumstances that come our way for our good if we let Him. As Christ taught us, our God has a redemptive heart. He can redeem the hard times, the tragic times and make something beautiful out of them. If we let Him!
But before we can grow to be like Christ we have to get the garbage out first. We are like sponges and we absorb what we are immersed in, what is poured in us, what is around us. If we are in clean, clear water, we absorb clean, clear water and the more we are squeezed, the more it comes out. If we are in yuck, yuck comes out when squeezed. When pressure is applied what is in us comes out. The question is, when you get squeezed, what comes out? When you get squeezed, what is coming out of your life? Can you track that to what you are putting into your life, to who you are hanging around with, what you are reading, what you are seeing, who you are talking with? Do you see the difference? When you get squeezed, what comes out? What comes out is what you have absorbed, what has been put in. God wants us to understand and recognize that He wants us to grow in our love, grow in our faith, and grow in our joys and that what goes into our hearts and minds is largely up to us.
What good is your grief? Very simply, God uses it to squeeze out what is in you. He clears out the muck and junk in our lives so that we will be better able to absorb the good stuff from God. A clean sponge absorbs clean, clear water and squeezes out clean, clear water. Are you letting God pour good things in your life? Or are you sitting around absorbing whatever else is around you, whatever anyone wants to pour in you, whatever slops out from others around you? You are just going to sop it all up. If so, then that is what is going to come out of your life.
Are you trusting His Word and connecting with His Spirit? If you have some stuff in you that you want to clear out of your life say, “Lord, it is time for me to trust you and stop trying to do things myself. It is time to let you flush this stuff out of my life.” That is what you need to do. God works in us as we connect with Him. You have received your salvation but it is up to you to appropriate it to your life. Peter desperately wants you to know that.
1 Peter 1:10-12: Salvation and the Plan of God
1 Peter 1:10-12: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
When we think of the Old Testament prophets, we normally think of them as the most knowledgeable individuals concerning the Word of God. They were God’s instruments for revealing God’s truth to the world. They delivered His truth to the world so they must have understood it better than anyone else on earth. But as 1 Peter 1:10-12 tell us, there were things even they did not fully comprehend. We must not forget that when they delivered a new prophecy or new description of an older truth it was new to them, too. And sometimes the meaning was obvious and at other times it was not. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
He is talking to people who are living 1,000 years after the prophets and he tells them, “They were not just speaking for themselves or their time, they were talking about the time you are living in; they were getting a message to you.” The prophets did not simply speak for their own benefit or even for the benefit of just Israel or the Jews themselves. The Christ was a global figure not a sectarian Jewish leader. When God chose Abraham as the one He was going to build a nation through, His focus was not just that nation but the world. They were talking about a future time when the prophecies they delivered would be fulfilled.
As God gave new revelation about the Messiah, sometimes the details did not appear to mesh into a clear and consistent picture. And what gave them particular difficulty were the prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah. They wanted a deliverer. They wanted a nation builder. They were raised looking for a glorious and powerful figure that would set things right, that would reward good and punish evil. The suffering passages did not seem to fit. Who could these prophecies be referring to? And when will the final glories of the kingdom take place? As Hebrews 11:13-16 tell us: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
There are some things that the prophets did not understand and they studied Scripture to fit it all together. Verse 10 says they searched intently and with the greatest care. They respected God’s word. It was the important thing, not them. We have to be careful about going places where Scripture does not take us. I have to be careful of that because I have a great imagination. As a pastor, I need to be very careful I do not make the Bible say something that it does not say. Have you ever heard a pastor do that? We have to make sure what we are saying is grounded in God’s word, not in Pastor Dave’s imagination or anybody else’s imagination or wishful thinking.
They searched intently and with great care. The prophets scoured Scripture to understand God’s plan. How would you like to stand up here and tell a bunch of people things you do not understand? You would feel like you are making a fool of yourself. You are talking about things you cannot quite grasp. And that is the way the prophets felt. The word that comes to my mind that captures the frame of mind they had concerning their study of Scripture is scour. We do not scour things much anymore. You know when scouring stopped? When Teflon came along. How many of you had a cast iron skillet you had to scrub with steel wool to get it clean? You really had to work at it and that is what the prophets did. Scouring Scripture to discover its meaning. They did not have a laptop with Google search and with Bible search and all the other search aids available to us today. They had to go through scrolls trying to find out what Zechariah said, what Job said, what Moses said, what Daniel said, and all the other prophets. Revelation came to us at various times, never all at once, and they searched to discover how it all fit together. It says they did it because they wanted us to know the truth. They could have made it up, imposed their own thoughts on Scripture, but they did not. The prophets searched intently with the greatest care to make sure the things they were saying, the things they were thinking were not coming from their own thoughts and imaginations. And the thing that gave them the most difficulty were the passages that appeared to talk about a suffering Messiah. How does a suffering Messiah fit together with the image of a glorious and powerful deliverer-king? “Ok, we are predicting a Messiah, a Savior is going to come, but then, when we read about suffering, we do not understand it. I do not want a Savior who is going to suffer and die. I want a Savior who will ride in on his white horse and who will slay everything evil with the voice of His mouth. But that is not what God is telling us. I just do not understand how it all fits together.” Can you imagine the confusion the prophets had?
But the faithful prophets are to be commended. They declared God’s message not their own. Even when they did not fully understand what God meant by what He said, they wrote down God’s word. They knew it was for a future time. And Peter tells us that future time is both now and still yet future. These prophets were faithful to their calling. As it says in 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” As history showed us, and Peter declares in verse 11, there are two significant times for the Messiah—the time of His suffering and the time of His glory. But they did not know this. To them it was confusing.
The prophets were mystified at God’s plan. This may sound surprising to you. If anyone should understand what God’s word means it should be the ones who delivered the message. But Peter tells us they were mystified at God’s plan. Can you imagine how Isaiah felt? When God said to him, “I want you to tell them about the Messiah who is coming,” and then what does Isaiah hear? Isaiah 53:
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
For us today, this is clear because to us it is history. But to Isaiah and those that came after him, it must have seemed incredible. Who is this person being described? If I told you we were going to have a deliverer in America, someone who is going to set America right, and he is going to come from the ghetto and have one leg and be blind, what would you think? What would your reaction be? We would laugh. We would say, “This is ridiculous. I mean, we have television. People are going to hear and people are going to see him. No one is going to follow him.” That is how insane it sounded to the prophets. They were mystified at God’s plan. But they trusted God’s plan and reported it as they were given it. “I do not know how God is going to do it, but I believe in him and I am going to say it as he gave it to me. I do not understand how it is all going to fit together, that is God’s business, my job is to write down what He tells me not filter it through my understanding.” As it says in Hebrews, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises but were assured of them even though they saw them from afar.”
I have a 1930 newspaper. Anybody want to read it? Well, it is interesting to see some historical facts and the price of cars back then but it is ancient history. It is a novelty more than helpful. But Peter says, “No, this was written for you to give you confidence that what happened to Jesus was not an accident. It was not a plan gone wrong. Satan and Pilate and Judas and the priests did not overtake God’s plan.” God did not say, “Oh, I did not know that was going to happen.” Jesus was not a mistake. The cross was not a mistake. The cross was not a failure. But it sure felt like it to everybody else at that time, didn’t it? It sure felt like it to the disciples that were all scattered. I love the way that The Passion movie ends with Satan in that dry, bare wilderness screaming when he realizes, “what I thought was my victory is my undoing. The sacrifice has been paid. Forgiveness has been purchased. I did not do away with prophecy. I did not overthrow God’s plan. I ended up being the one to fulfill it.” That is the wonderful, amazing way that God works. He takes what we think is the wrong end and works it to great good.
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Peter said the prophets spoke by the Holy Spirit and they told you these things are going to be happening and now you have seen them and heard about how they have been fulfilled by someone else who has been moved by the same Holy Spirit. Do you know whom Peter is referring to? He is referring to himself. Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to proclaim to many of the Jews who are now living dispersed in the same region he is writing the letter to. Peter says the Holy Spirit that moved the prophets moved him to tell the people how Scripture was fulfilled. Peter wants them to know the Holy Spirit did it, not Super Peter. God’s plan from the very beginning of time is connected to what God is doing now. It is not something new. It is not the work of men but of God.
Then he adds, “Even angels long to look into these things.” The angels are learning as they watch God’s plan unfold. Angels are discovering the wonder of God. This extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and discussed among the angels. Peter describes a scene in which angels are leaning over the walls of heaven looking down and watching with bated breath what God is doing. Jesus told us angels cheer over our salvation. Luke 15:10: “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner comes to repentance.” Angels rejoice and celebrate over our salvation. Don’t they get tired of cheering? Often I hear Katie in the other room. I am watching my Nascar, news, or reading or doing something else and she is watching a Laker game or a Magic game or a Heat game or a playoff game or something and I will hear her clapping. She is cheering someone making a shot or terrific play. She is cheering about a certain point that means a lot to her because she cares about this player or about what is going on. Angels get excited because they see how God’s plan is unfolding. And Peter wants us to get excited, as well, as we come to understand what God has been doing from the very beginning. As we learn how God has already brought to pass what He has foretold, we gain a living hope that He will also bring to pass the prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
1 Peter 1:13: Attaining God’s Direction for Your Life
1 Peter 1:13: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
I want to cement into your minds the image of not being a pinball, of not getting bounced around by life, not getting bumped here, bumped there, your future determined by the situations and circumstances that come into your life. Do not be a pinball. God’s got something better in mind for you than seeing your life roll here and there and getting hit and batted around and finally, inevitably rolling downhill into the gutter. God says, “I have something better. I have something else for you, something more worthwhile, something more enjoyable, more fulfilling. Do not be a pinball. But it is your choice. You have the freedom to bounce and bump and roll as much as you want. But I have something better for you. Will you trust me? Will you listen to me? I can give you the direction you need in your life. I can organize your life to help you withstand the storms and uncertainties of life.” Do not be a pinball.
In 1 Peter, Peter starts off in the first twelve verses giving us information that is designed to inspire our transformation. He tells us who we are and who God is and what He has done for us and then says in verse 13, “therefore” and looks ahead at what we are to become, what our future is about. Verses one through twelve is all encouragement. There is no blaming, no exhortation, and no commands. It is all factual information about God’s magnificent goodness and provision for us and then because of all these truths he says, “Therefore, because of who God is and who you are and what He is doing for you and His power and His hope for you, here are some things for you to do.”
The tone of what Peter is saying in verse 13 is, “Will you be intentional or will you be reactionary in your life?” So I ask you, Will you be like a bullet moving with purpose and direction or will you be like a pinball careening around in response to what is going on around you? Are you bouncing around or do you have direction in your life? Yes, you are going to get bumped, you are going to get hit but do you know where you are going? You are not just reacting to everything in your life. You have destination. You have purpose. He wants us to know that we have another controlling force that can give us the direction we need in our lives. You have an influence in your life that is more powerful than the circumstances you are going to encounter. Because of who Jesus is, do not be a pinball. Your citizenship is not on this earth, but you are owned by God and you are planted on this earth to be a help and blessing to the world around you. God has you here on purpose. So do not be a pinball, be a bullet, God’s bullet.
Do not let the world bump you all over the place. Because of what you are becoming, because of the work that God has done to bring you into His family, keep your priorities straight. He has given us a new birth into a living hope, an inheritance that will never fade, never die, never be defiled. We have an inheritance that has been protected by God. You are your heavenly Father’s child. My granddaughter Amy, the seven-month old, looks at me and just looks at me. Looks at me and just looks at me. I can tickle and do some things and once in a while I get her to smile. But when she sees her daddy, she just lights up. There is a connection there. She is her father’s little girl in ways that I am jealous of. God wants you to be His little girl, His son that makes Him smile and say, “I am proud and thankful for you to be my child.” Because of who you are, do not be a pinball.
Do not be controlled by the world around you. God is there to help you. Because of what you are becoming, and despite what you are going through, do not be a pinball. Do not let trouble and unfairness control you. Do not let them overwhelm your feelings and your plans. We live on a magnificent planet. Things are blossoming and blooming, the beauty of this earth is such a marvelous gift, but it is amazing how we complain about the one percent of life that is wrong. I was so frustrated with my car this last week. The carburetor was not working. That stupid car! One little thing makes you all upset about something. Katie said something this week that got me upset. She is probably right, but it still upset me. One little thing. Do not forget the inheritance that we have, the whole big picture of what God has ahead of us. Because of all these things, do not be a reactionary but be deliberate. Be like a bullet that has direction and purpose. Live on purpose for what God has for you.
Verse 13: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Do not be a pinball. Instead let your minds be prepared for action; be self-controlled; and have your hope fully set, locked in, attached to what God has in the future for you. We have all been recipients of God’s grace but here it says, “Set your hope on the grace that God has promised you in Jesus Christ [for He is trustworthy and can fulfill what He has promised].” The Christian’s hope is founded on the solid rock of God’s redemptive grace and the promises that await future fulfilling.
What is grace? It is unmerited favor; unmerited blessing; unmerited provision. It is giving someone more blessing than he or she deserves. How many of you want more blessing or good things than you deserve? Sure, everybody does. But our Father says, “I have many blessings planned for you. Therefore, prepare yourselves so you can enter into my provisions for you.”
Let us take this apart a little bit and see what it says. “Prepare your minds.” Do you remember the old Boy Scout slogan, “be prepared?” Preparation gets us ready for action. Verse 13 says, “prepare your minds for action.” You know, that is what I do every Sunday morning. That is my job. If it does not happen, then the time and effort was wasted. You get no points for sitting in my presence and listening to me talk about God. “Oh hey, he listened to another sermon, check.” If God’s truth does not come in to reside within you, if it does not change you, if it does not help, if it does not motivate, if it does not move you in a godly direction, then you and I just wasted 30 or 40 minutes of our lives. This is preparation time so you will be better able to handle those negative experiences in your future. Prepare your minds for God-approved (godly) action.
Preparation is vital for success in life, it is the smart thing to do. Abraham Lincoln said, “If I am going to chop down a tree and I have six hours to do it, you know what I am going to spend the first hour doing? Sharpening the ax!” Sharpen the ax so that the rest of your effort goes smoothly and you cut your work time in half. How many things happened this week that if you had been prepared the problem would have been eliminated or greatly diminished? But, no. We wait and scramble. Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is a secret to success.” John Kennedy: “The time to prepare a roof is when the sun is still shining.” Do not wait for it to rain. John Wooden: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” So use this time that we have together in His Word to reflect and think and prepare; to change your attitude, to get a sense of what He wants you to do. Do not get bumped around like a pinball.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” I want you to notice something about this verse. Where are these thoughts taking place? In the head? No, in the heart. This verse is not talking about your self-talk or your surface thinking, it is talking about your most basic beliefs and assumptions. Listen to Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Curtis Vaughan in his commentary of Colossians 1:21 and the Colossians’ conversion to Christ from their former lives says it well when he states how their former hostility to God affected not only how they behaved but how they thought about things. “Prior to their conversion to Christianity the Colossians had been alienated and enemies. The former word, which literally means ‘transferred to another owner,’ speaks of their estrangement from God…. The latter word affirms the Colossians’ hostility to God. This hostility, Paul explains, affected their mind (lit., ‘thought’. ‘disposition,’ ‘attitude’) and was outwardly expressed by wicked works.” The inner hostility Vaughan speaks about is the thoughts of the heart Proverbs 23:7 is addressing. A person can memorize thousands of Scripture verses and still be far from God because the “thoughts and attitudes of the heart” have not been abandoned.
That being said it matters how you think. It matters what you place before your eyes. It matters who your friends are. Your thought processes make a huge difference. A person can undermine his or her new life in Christ if they read and look at corrupting things and hang around with corrupt people. You can trace most of your problems and most of your successes to your thought processes. Why do people make consistently bad choices? At the time they were made, all of those decisions seemed like a good idea. “I have a problem, I do not know what I am going to do. I am going to try this solution, try this shortcut.” Why do people consistently do bad things? The Bible says in Romans 1:28, “Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to the depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. They became filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity and they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice.” Why? Because their inner rebellion and hostility toward God leads them to think and enact ungodly behaviors. God designed them to be free-will creatures. He tussled with them to receive His truth and ways but when their rejection of Him became full-blown then He gave them over to a “depraved mind.” These people went from having a choice in regards to what is right and true to committing themselves to unbelief and its subsequent behaviors. Notice how a depraved mind and its thinking came after the conscious rejection of God’s truth and ways. When the truth is rejected, the irrational must be grasped in order to sustain unbelief. Romans 1:28 tells us the fruits of such a lifestyle.
On the other side of the coin, God says in Philippians 4:8, “Listen, finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right or pure and whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these kinds of things.” Right thinking with an underlying heart disposition that wants to do what is right produces right actions. Right thinking contributes toward right actions. You become like the way you think. What you think makes a difference and the way you think about things makes a difference. This is not a mechanical process like a computer—data in, data out. We are more complicated than that. We can read the Bible, memorize Scripture and attend church regularly for years and still be far from God. But with godly motivation and desire ”think[ing] on these things” can draw us closer to God and gives us the direction we need in life. Do not be a pinball; be a bullet, God’s bullet.
Our thinking does not get better, though, unless we seek it. It does not get better by doing nothing. It does not get better by just vegging out. It says, “Prepare your minds for action.” Put your minds in gear is the way I like to say it. Put your minds in gear rather than just spinning your wheels. Think in a direction, preparing your minds for action. How do you prepare your minds for action? God says, two ways. “Thy word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Know God’s Word and sin not!
God tells us about truth. He tells us about life. When I was doing some work on this I went on the internet for a few minutes and when I went on, all of a sudden I got this popup from Amazon.com trying to sell me something. They had this list of books whose main theme was “successful thinking designed to help you achieve higher results, transform your thinking, cultivate success in business and life.” Here are the titles—“What the Best do Better than Everyone Else.” “The Think-Big Manifesto”—think you cannot change your life, well, think again. “Psychological Tactics and Tricks to Win the Game.” The fourth one, “Zero Limits—the secret Hawaiian system for wealth, health, peace, and more.” The world knows the way you think makes a difference. You think any of these books are going to sell? Think people are going to buy some of these books? Do people want a better understanding because they want to solve problems in their lives? But notice, the world is trying to sell you knowledge—“know this and you will be successful.” In contrast, when the Bible tells you to “think on these things,” it is not trying to sell you knowledge. It is preparing you to walk with God and live godly in this world. It is the necessary prerequisite to living according to the new life that is in you. How you think matters.
Secondly, it says, “Be self-controlled.” How many of you have someone in your family that needs more self-control? How many of you want more self-control? Can I fill your wildest dreams by telling you that you have all the self-control you need? You have every bit of self-control you need. I know that because my three-year old granddaughter, Natalie, has all the self-control she needs. She is totally self-controlled. Mom is telling her what to do, Grandma is telling her what to do, I am trying to get her to do things, but she knows that she is in control and she lets us know it. She does not have to obey us. We can try to bribe her, we can try to force her, we can discipline her, but she is in control of her. The same way you are in control of you. See, what you need is not more self-control. You have all the self-control you need. You are in charge of you. You are the boss and you can say, “No, I am not going to do that.” What you need is a better system of government, not more government. Not more self-control. You need a better governor for the self.
There are four things that may adversely affect my self-control. The first one is my head. The way I think, what I think. We have seen how important right thinking is. I can reason what the right thing to do is, what I should do at a particular time, but the trouble is that I can talk myself into just about anything or out of just about anything. “Katie, I really think we need to do this because I want it, I need it.” Anybody ever rationalize yourself into doing something you know you should not have done? The problem is that you are using your head to justify something you know is wrong. You can out think yourself and rationalize to make almost anything sound ok. “Well, I need to do this because …, and I know it is not normally right but in this situation there are extenuating circumstances that justify me doing it.” So your head votes to go ahead and do something wrong.
Secondly, my heart may adversely affect my decisions. Your feelings can lead you astray. Your feelings can have a tremendously powerful effect on your life. “It feels so good it just cannot be wrong.” We see our feelings as the real us. “So why should I not just be me. If it is acceptable to me, then you cannot tell me to not do it.” We not only say this to people but to God. After all, we see our feelings as the real us. Doing it just validates who we are. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that in many ways we are not incorrect when we say this. As we think in our hearts so are we. The problem is that the real me can be opposed to God and His ways. And by expressing that we set ourselves against Him. Can you trust your feelings to guide and control your life? Without self-examination, no! But does it cast its vote on controlling you? Does it sometimes cast a vote in some pretty dangerous directions? Oh, yeah. So, you have self-control, but what direction are you going in? Just because you want it does not make it right. That is why it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ before it is done or spoken.
Thirdly, my stomach can lead me astray. My stomach represents my basic desires and appetites. I am not just talking about food. I am talking about sexuality and all the other basic desires I have as a human. These desires can, however, take me in the wrong direction if I do not control them. Being ‘brainless’ they can take me in extreme directions. Too much food, bad, unhealthy food, too much sex, sex with the wrong people (not your spouse), sex for pleasure alone, detached from relationship, or a lust for adventure, thrills and excitement to the point where you will risk your very life, health or family to have it--in other words, greed and excess in many areas of our lives. If we choose to indulge them, they will lead us astray. If we keep them within the bounds God has provided for them, they can enhance our lives.
Fourthly, my spirit can lead me astray. The main problem is pride. Listen to two passages. Isaiah 25:10b-12: “Moab will be crushed like trampled straw and left to rot. God will push down Moab’s people as a swimmer pushes down water with his hands. He will end their pride and all their evil works. The high walls of Moab will be demolished and ground to dust.” Obadiah 2-4: “The Lord says, I will cut you down to size among the nations, Edom, you will be small and despised. You are proud because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. Do not fool yourselves! Though you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Three things we need to be aware of concerning pride. One, we think too highly of ourselves. Two, we think too highly of what we have done. Three, we think too highly of what we can make ourselves to be. It leads us into foolishness (Obadiah 3), destruction (Proverbs 16:18), arrogance (Proverbs 8:13), stubbornness (Isaiah 9:9), contention (Proverbs 13:10), and a lack of humility (see Eve’s fall, Genesis 2). James 4:6-10 tell us that the cure for pride is humility. “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” First Peter 5:5-6 tell us the same thing. “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
When Scripture tells us to have self-control, it is not telling us to have me-control. It is literally talking about Spirit-control. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It is listed last because this is the one that ties all the others together and helps them to operate effectively. The fruit of the Spirit includes patience and kindness. Does it take self-control to be patient and kind? Oh, yeah. I can say I feel very patient. But then I have to control myself when she or he is late and it has happened again and again. I need self-control to exercise patience so that anger does not control me. I have to have self-control to exercise kindness, as well. Being kind may take effort. Being kind may be contrary to how I feel. We may feel pity or disgust but self-control gives us the opportunity to show kindness to someone instead.
The good news is God does not leave you to your spirit alone. He says, “I will plant my Spirit in you to help your spirit do what you need to do.” For it is God who “works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Romans 8:28). We sometimes misunderstand that verse. It is not just to do the right thing but to want to do the right thing. God works in you to move your spirit to do the right thing, to make the hard choice, the non-feeling choice, the choice to deprive yourself of something you crave in order to do what is right and pleasing to God. God works in you to will to do the right thing. It is work for God to change your will, to shift your desires. He does not make us do something. He entices and encourages us to make the right choice. “God [exerts effort] in [us] to [want to do the right thing] and [then] to [actually] do [the right thing] according to His good purpose.”
Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Let God remold you from the inside out. Let God’s Spirit work in you to change, to motivate, to move you. Be self-controlled. Deliberately take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus. To say, “this thinking is not right. This desire is not right. I know what I feel I want to do, but I know what the right thing to do is and that is letting your Spirit take me through it.” I had to wrestle with this issue this week. I was preparing this message so I did not wrestle with it Thursday. I wrestled with it Friday. I did not know it until on Friday I realized Thursday was a foul day. I had a bad attitude. I was mad at people and mad at Katie, resentful. I was angry. I was frustrated. Then I realized what I was thinking. I was dwelling on this one issue. I was letting it just spiral me down. That one issue was starting to control the rest of my life. But God says, “take every thought captive.” When I saw it, I said, ok. That one is going in the trash. It is going in the can, the one with the lid on it so it does not jump back out, so that it does not stink up the rest of my life. Deliberately, take every thought captive so those things that can take you down, those things which can destroy your life, those things which hurt your relationships and your feelings, can be short-circuited before they can negatively energize your life. Part of humanity is being an independent spirit. But a Christian is to be Spirit-controlled. Let God’s Spirit guide and direct what you are going through. Be a bullet, God’s bullet.
Verse 13 continues, “…set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God has given us so much but He has so much more to give, we have so much more of His grace to experience. Set your heart in the future but live in the now. That future is certain to us because of what Christ has done for us in the past. Mickey Mantle said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken a lot better care of myself.” What we do now affects our future. What we set our hope on now will affect how we live. The information we are given in God’s Word should lead us to walking with God. Peter calls us to a “living hope, a vigorous hope.” Not a hope that is just kind of sitting out there, but it is a hope that empowers us, a hope that says, because of this, I am going to count these things as loss. I am not going to let my life be ruled by these things. I am going to let my life be ruled by what God says is worthwhile. He who has begun a good work in us will take us to completion. He will fulfill it the day Christ Jesus returns. I would like it fulfilled now. I would like to be finished now. I would like God to be finished with me this week so I can be perfect the rest of my life. Katie would love that. But no, like you, I am still in process. We have God’s promise for that. As it says in Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have is an anchor of the soul.” It is trustworthy for giving us stability and direction in our lives.
Do not be pushed into the world’s mold. Rather, make godly choices. Prepare your mind for action and be Spirit-controlled. Let God’s Spirit speak to you. Listen to those nudges and follow when you hear them. God will not lead you astray. You can overpower God’s voice at any time. God has never appeared to me in a burning bush where I could not get away from Him. He says, “Here is an opportunity. You want it?” He may tussle with me for a time but ultimately he leaves the choice to me. Be Spirit-controlled and keep an eye on what is ahead. Live for the future. Do not be a pinball, rather be intentional about your life, be God’s bullet.
My prayer for Christians. “Father, we thank you that you have given us your word to help us understand better about life, about who you are and your love for us, your design for us, your instructions for us, your power to live in us and work through us, your power working in us to control ourselves so your Spirit might have dominance in us. Lord, forgive us for taking back the reins all too often. Lord, forgive us for doing things that hurt ourselves and others.
Lord, as Christians we are still wrestling with life and sometimes we are bumped around like a pinball machine—ka-ching, ka-ching, here and there, Lord. You see it and you know that some of the things we are doing to ourselves. We also ask for protection amid those things. Lord, help us to learn to make wise choices.
Lord, we thank you that you have given us a plan, you have given instructions, you have not abandoned us; that you will be with us this week. Lord, there are going to be some horrendous things that will happen in some of our lives this week and we are not ready for them. But Lord, empower us to listen to you. We commit ourselves to listen to you and make choices based upon your word and what your Spirit is saying to our hearts. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen."
1 Peter 1:14-16: Holiness
1 Peter 1:14-16: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
What I am going to say may upset some of you because well, that is what I do. At least that makes you think a little bit. Because many times the ideas we have come from what we are taught or the way we saw things as we were growing up. Sometimes the way we see things are not really the way they are. Do you recognize that? Holiness often has an idea of traditionality. I do not want to be traditional. God says He is holy and so He wants us to be holy, too. So, what does that mean? He told that to Israel at the very beginning of its existence because it is foundational to God having an intimate relationship with people.
God is holy. He does not have to become holy. He has always been holy because that is who He is—the Holy One. But we, sinful, fallen humans are not holy which creates a dilemma for God. How does a holy God who cannot tolerate or overlook or sanction unholiness (sin) have intimate fellowship with people who are not holy?
Since God calls us to be holy, we need to try to get a handle on holiness. How can we be holy if we do not know what it is? And where do we look for demonstrations of holiness we can attempt to emulate? When we want to acquire a skill we look at those who already have the skill we want to acquire and study how they do it. We listen to them and try to copy what they do. Concerning holiness there is only one place we can look to discover what holiness is—God Himself. We can watch and listen as God related to and taught Israel in the Old Testament and since Jesus Christ is the express, exact image of the invisible God we can look to Him to discover holiness in the New Testament.
Holiness in many churches gets translated into a list of don’ts. We don’t dance, we don’t smoke, we don’t chew, we don’t say certain words, we don’t gamble, we don’t play pool, we don’t roller skate. You know, whatever, we don’t wear slacks to church, we don’t use anything but the King James Bible, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t. I could give you a long list of “don’ts.” The Bible does tell us to stay away from certain things, to not do certain things but often our lists of don’ts are opinions enshrined as doctrinal fact. We do go to church, we do read our Bible, we do pray, but so often we focus more on the “don’ts” than we do the “do’s” and when people look at us, people look at Christians, they see people who”don’t” more than people who “do.” But holiness is not a list of do’s and don’ts. The Pharisees had a list—a long list. But something was wrong. Jesus called them a brood of vipers, poisonous snakes.
The primary word in the Old Testament translated holy in our English Bibles is “qadosh” or some variant of that word. The primary word in the New Testament is “hagios.” It means primarily three things. The first two are negative and the third is positive. The first meaning and use of the word holy is set apart. Young in his concordance translated “qadosh” and its variants as separated or separation. Concerning God He is set apart from everything else because He is unique and special (Exodus 15:11, 1 Samuel 2:2). Objects and people are set apart (Exodus 28:2, 31:14, 37:29, Lev. 16:33, 23:24, 27:30, Num. 6:8, 31:6, 1 Kings 8:4, Ezra 2:63, Isaiah 48:2, 62:12, Ezekiel 43:12, Joel 3:17, Romans 12:1, 16:16, 1 Peter 2:9) and hence holy, because they are reserved to be used for God’s purposes. When used in this way the internal character of the object or person is not being addressed. Only that it has been reserved to be used by God for His special purposes. He or she or it is uniquely His. Because of 2000 years of Christian heritage the view that the God of Israel, Jehovah, is unique is not news to our awareness. We have more or less accepted that fact. But the historical setting and context for the new nation of Israel was different. It was surrounded by nations who worshipped other gods. When I say “God” you are not thinking of Zeus or Baal or Hermes or some other god or host of gods. You are thinking of the God, Creator of heaven and earth and Redeemer of sinners. But if you were raised in a family and a nation and a country where you had a whole host of gods, then Jehovah saying, “I am unique, I am different, I am set apart from all others” is news. And accordingly, many Old Testament uses of the word “qadosh” are given to get that truth across to first the Israelites and then to the surrounding nations.
To set something apart means you take that thing and treat it as special. It is like the word “consecrated” when you are dedicating it for a special purpose. Katie has several rings. But there is one ring that is consecrated, dedicated, for something special—her marriage to me. It means she and I are husband and wife. It is set apart for a special purpose with significant meaning. God took that nation of Israel aside and told them, “I am going to make you a holy, set apart, nation. I want you to be different from the nations around you who are worshipping others gods and who are involved in corrupt and immoral practices.” When I said “yes” to Katie I was also saying “no” to all other women. When I said “yes” to Katie I was setting myself apart from all other women unto her, my special lady.
Holiness also means clean or pure--perfect. Wilson in his study of Old Testament words ascribes the meaning pure, clean, free from defilement to many of the word usages of the word holy. The following Old and New Testament verses point to this idea of pure, clean from defilement: Lev. 22:32, 2 Chronicles 29:5, Ezekiel 20:39, 36:20, 39:7, Ephesians 1:4, 5:27, Col. 1:22, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:7, Hebrews 7:26. This is the second negative view of holiness. Negative views of holiness point to what God is not. He is not like everything else in the universe and He is not polluted by any kind of sin or corruptness. He is unique and blameless.
When we talk about the purity of holiness, I relate it to this bottle. This is a bottle of water I got in Caesarea Philippi in 1999. I filled this bottle out of a stream that comes out of the cavern where Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the sent one of God.” I have collected water from all over the world. This is the only one I have that is still clear and free from contaminants. It is surprising. Usually they turn green after about two weeks. But this is the idea we have of purity--of no contamination, of nothing dangerous or harmful in it, absolutely clean.
But these negative views of holiness do not tell us something positive about God. Someone can be described as totally different from anyone else to the point that he is set off by himself, unlike the crowd around him, and that he is a perfect representative of something without actually saying anything positive about him. Why is he unique? Why is he unlike the crowd? And what is he a perfect representative of? When God tells us to be holy, is He only telling us to be set apart to Him? Or is He telling us more? How are we to be like Him? Just by lacking bad stuff (sin) in our lives or is something positive involved? In other words, the idea becomes holiness is not merely an absence of something but the total presence of something else to the point that there is no room for anything contrary to it.
Picture three circles in your mind. The first circle consists of only a circumference the inside of which is void of all color, theoretically filled with utter blackness. The second circle consists of a circumference filled with a single color, let us say blue. The third circle consists of a circumference filled with a mixture of many colors one on top of the other. It is a mish mash of colors that combine to form a rather ugly color. The first circle represents the absence of something—a negative view—and the resultant picture is blackness. The second circle represents a unity of color—a positive view—and the resultant picture is a perfectly blue circle, unadulterated with anything else. The third circle represents the presence of many overlapping colors—a positive view—but no one statement can describe the circle except multi-layered coloring. We cannot say it is a blue circle, red circle, yellow circle, green circle, whatever.
When applied to the statement God is holy, which of the three circles fits the description? Well, we have already seen that both the Hebrew and Greek words for holy had the predominant view of set apart, separation because of task or nature. That eliminates the third circle. Which of the two remaining circles describes the situation? Often we think of holiness as purity from outside contamination—the first circle. The problem with this circle is that it is an empty circle, void of anything at all, including things that are positive. Is this view of holiness correct? Is holiness only concerned with the negative view—the absence of sin? I do not think this is the correct view of the holiness of God.
There are two possibilities for something described as sinless (absence of sin). The first corresponds to circle one—nothingness. The second possibility is something filled with one thing so that nothing else finds a place in it. The second circle describes this situation. The blue circle is blue—period. All else is excluded. The circle is not red, yellow, green, whatever, because it is blue. Concerning the holiness of God, there is an absence of sin in Him because there is the total presence of something else in Him. But what? Read 1 John 4:7-19: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” God is love! Love is positive action done for the good of someone else, even to the point of self-sacrifice. It is caring for the good of the other even to the point of self-sacrifice. Love is act in God.
What underlies this positive action for another? What lies behind Calvary? Goodness. God’s holiness is the expression of His immeasurable goodness and total lack of guile, deceit, or perversity of any kind. There is no one else like Him. He is absolutely unique in goodness. Thomas Traherne, a 17th century pastor put it like this: “The infinite love of His own goodness is the holiness of God …. Holiness is that virtue of God, by which he loves the most perfect things, and infinitely delighteth in them. For by virtue of this affection he shuns and hates all that is profane, pursuing and delighting in all that is holy.” God is absolutely free from all sin of any kind because He is absolutely good.
Now we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to be good? In an elementary way we can say that goodness is the root of righteousness not the other way around. God is not good because He is righteous but He is righteous because He is good. But let us take a little deeper look at goodness. Look at the virtues and their corresponding vices below (Skeen, International Journal of Reality Therapy, Fall 2003, p. 15):
There are three things I want you to notice about the list above. First, each virtue, the middle column, is bounded by two ways to error. Second, each virtue needs to be balanced by the other virtues in order to prevent vice. Third, depending on the situation certain virtues may actually clash with other virtues to see which one might have more, but not total, relevance to that situation. It is a complicated balancing act. We have to constantly check ourselves, to examine ourselves, so that all three of the truths about virtue can be fulfilled in us. We struggle with this because we are not inherently good. All the virtues when taken together describe goodness. So when we say God is good we are saying God possesses all the virtues to the nth degree and they are in perfect balance with each other and every time He makes a decision it is the perfect balance of virtues relevant to that situation. This goodness sets God apart as unique and blameless.
With this view of goodness before us, we now have a positive view of holiness that we can get our heads and hearts around. If holiness is God’s love of His own goodness, then what is our holiness? How do we define our holiness in a positive way? Obviously, we cannot say the same thing about ourselves as we said about God. Our holiness is not the love of our own goodness. Although if you listen closely to New Age doctrine that is what they are saying about human potential. God tells us what it means to us. He told us to be holy like He is holy. Therefore, our holiness is based on our valuing God’s goodness to the point that we seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to emulate it in our own lives. And where can we most clearly see it so we can emulate it—the life, ministry, and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read closely the following by Thomas Traherne. In the cross we see goodness; we see holiness. “Is this He that was transfigured upon Mount Tabor? Pale, withered, extended, tortured, soiled with blood, and sweat, and dust, dried, parched! O sad, O dismal spectacle! All His joints are dissolved, all His blood is shed, to the last drop, all His moisture is consumed! What is here but a heap of desolations, a deformed carcass, a disfigured countenance! A mass of miseries and silence, footsteps of innumerable sufferings! Can this be a joy? Can this be an entertainment? Can this delight us? O Jesus, the more vile I here behold Thee, the more I admire Thee. Into what low abysses didst Thou descend, in what depths of misery dost Thou now lie! Oh what confusions, what stripes and wounds, what desolations and deformities didst Thou suffer for our sakes! In all the depths of thy humiliation I here adore thee! I prize and desire always to see those stripes and those deformities. It is sweeter to be with Thee in thy sufferings, than with princes on their Thrones, and more do I rejoice with Thee in Thy misery, than in all their solemnities. I tremble also to see thy condescensions, the great effects and expressions of Thy love! Thou wast slain for me: and shall I leave Thy body in the field, O Lord? Shall I go away and be merry, while the Love of my soul is dead upon the cross. Groans, here, in the sight and apprehension of thy love are beyond all melody, and the solemn sorrows of a loving Soul, a faithful friend, a tender Spouse, a deep and compassionate true Lover, beyond all the entertainments in the world. Thine O Jesus will I ever be while I have any Being.” Does this describe a God who is characterized by just a negative view of holiness? There is much more in the cross than the absence of something. There is substance there. There is goodness there. God is good to the core and that makes Him unique and different than anything else in the universe. And that can be most clearly seen at the cross!
Peter tells us to be holy in everything we do because God is holy and we are called to be like Him—“be holy because I am holy.” We belong to God—we are set apart to Him—and because of this fact we are to live like we are His children. Holiness is our heritage. Since we have received new life when we were born again we have the Father’s ‘spiritual DNA’ in us. We are called to live like it. But why holiness? For several reasons. Number one should be enough all by itself. Because our spiritual Dad says so. Even if we do not understand it, it should matter to us because the Father told us to do it. Aren’t there times when you expect your child to do something simply because you told them to do it? It is right to respect authority and do as you are told, as long as that authority is not telling you to do something that is wrong. To constantly question authority is rebellious. So when God says “be holy because I am holy,” we need to obey Him because He is God. God says be holy. So be holy!
If God tells us to be holy then it must be good for us. Why else should we seek after holiness? Psalm 15 gives us two reasons. In Psalm 15, David wrote:
“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.”
Why? 1) It allows us to dwell with our heavenly Father. “Because I do things in a certain way and if you are going to be in My house, this is how you are going to act, kid. This is the way we do things.” Who can live in His tent? Who can live in His house? He who is doing the right things. He who is good as his Lord is good. 2) It protects our well-being. “He who does these things will never be shaken.” God wants us to be holy because sin destroys our lives. Sin hurts you. The wages of sin is death. Anybody want to have pancakes with a little bit of gunk mixed into it? No. Then why do we endanger our lives and relationships by bringing destructive things and attitudes into our lives? God says it is the child that He loves that He disciplines. The child that He embraces, He also corrects. God is educating us about the dangers of sin because He wants to protect us. He wants the best for us so He gives us His commandments and guidelines to lead us and keep us out of trouble.
Also, thirdly, another benefit of holiness is that it equips us for fruitfulness. It helps us do the right thing so that we can reflect who God is to others, which prepares us for ministry. Peter himself says in chapter two, verse 12, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” And Timothy states in two places the importance of living a good, holy life. First Timothy 6:18-19: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Second Timothy 2:20-21: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Living holy lives equips us for fruitfulness.
Living holy lives also gives testimony that God is real to us and affirms our salvation in Him. Anybody want to see God active in your life? Then do what God says and watch what God does. Step out on faith and trust Him and see God answer. In upcoming verses Peter tells us how important holy living is. First Peter 2:1-3: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Holiness involves a choice. Holiness involves a choice to be like Jesus Christ. This primary decision must be followed by a lifestyle that shows we are our Father’s child. Second Peter 1:3-11 tell us how to live a godly life. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Now, probably about half of you are going to do something about this, the other half will not because you are lazy. I am sorry. Is that offensive? Do you want to grow in your holiness in your walk with God? Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior involves giving God permission to remake you to be like Christ. It involves repentance from your old life and attitudes and the taking on of a whole new direction for your life. Have you given God permission to change you? Have you been born again into a living hope? If so, does your life show it? Does your life show that you have repented and made a turn toward God in your life? If so, then you have been called to a godly, holy life.
You and God work together. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12-13 to “…continue to work out [the] salvation [that is in you] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” You and God team up together to do it. God cannot do it by Himself. God can do anything but He will not abrogate your will and violate your freedom.
Let me wrap this message up with a revision of the Footprints poem. Some of us have received great encouragement from the original. It is quite familiar to many of us. But I only recently read someone’s revision of that poem. It may offend a few people, but that is ok.
“One night I had a wondrous dream. One set of footprints there was seen. The footprints of my precious Lord. But mine were not along the shore. Then some stranger prints appeared. I asked the Lord, ‘What have we here? Those prints are large and round and neat but Lord, they are too big for my feet.’ ‘My child,’ He said in somber tones, ‘For miles I carried you alone. I challenged you to walk in faith but you refused and made me wait. You disobeyed; you would not grow. The walk of faith you did not know. So, I got tired and fed up and there I dropped you on your butt. Because in life there comes a time when one must fight and one must climb, when one must rise and take a stand or leave his buttprints in the sand.’”
God loves you. God wants you to grow and be strengthened as His child. He will help. It is not up to Him to carry you every step. It is up to us to walk hand in hand with Him. Will you trust Him? Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Holy. He is distinct. He is unique. He is awesome. He is perfect. He is good to the core. He calls us to be distinct, awesome, perfect, and good alongside Him and that is too much for any of us to do. But God will walk with us one step at a time and nurture us and strengthen us along the way. But you must be willing to put in the effort. Do you love and admire Jesus Christ enough to be like Him?
1 Peter 1:17-21: Our Father the Judge
1 Peter 1:17-21: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God."
We do not like the topic of judgment because we have the idea that somebody is picking on us and we know we are not going to measure up. Divine judgment gives us the picture of a judge who knows our life and guilt with a microscope in one hand and a gavel in the other. We know we are fallen beings and have failed, so who wants to go to court? We hear the stories about the Great White Throne Judgment. Anybody want to stand before God and all His hosts to have your life replayed in front of everybody? Nobody wants that. I have good news. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you do not have to. As a believer, we are told very clearly that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. And since condemnation is associated with judgment we have assurance that we will not be subject to the Great White Throne Judgment. Condemnation goes with judgment in this life because we have all fallen. But in Christ there is therefore now no condemnation. But does that mean it does not matter what I do? “I can do anything I want. It does not matter. I am forgiven. All my sin, past, present, it is all forgiven. Is not that great news? So, it does not matter what I do.” My wife is not saying yes to that. She knows it matters what I do. Those who say this see divine forgiveness as a license to indulge the flesh. Forgiveness in Christ is not a “get out of jail free” card. There is still accountability. Well, why, if our future sins cannot take us out of our Lord’s strong hand? Because He wants us to thrive and we need accountability in order to thrive and God is holy and cannot ignore wrong doing.
Let us look at what it says in 1 Peter chapter one, verse 17. It says, “Since you call on a father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” Again, we are calling Him Father. He is our loving Father. He wants to be related to us. He wants to be connected with us. He does not want to just be Creator, out there, the mighty one, but He wants to be our spiritual Dad. He wants to have a relationship with us. We were designed to have relationship with Him, to live in harmony and concert with Him. “You call Him Father, but remember, He also judges each person’s work impartially.” That means even though you are His son or His daughter, you are just as accountable as any other stranger.
He judges each person’s work impartially. He does not say, “Well, you know, you are a guy and I know how guys are. They have special needs so I will judge you on a different scale than I judge somebody else.” No. He judges each person impartially. We have no excuse. With this being true, “then live out your time in reverent fear.” The days that we have here are limited, we only have a certain number of days, and folks, as I reached 58 this past week, it is getting closer and closer and closer for me. Man, the days are going faster. The days are limited and that is good news, folks. Anybody want to live 900 years in this environment? I mean, thank God, He pared things down a bit. I do not want to be a Methuselah. I do not need 800 or 900 years to know that I need a Savior and I need to be changed. And I need others around me to be changed. I want to live in a better world. With the Hebrews 11 people of faith, I long for a “better country” and home. We are not simply about this earth and this world. We have allegiance beyond America, beyond our community or locality, beyond our church. We have a citizenship with God. We are part of His family and share those priorities with Him so let us live here in reverent fear.
Reverent fear is a religious-sounding thing. We read about the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom which teaches us to respect the power and wonder and strength of God. I really thought about bringing a gun to church to illustrate this point but that would be stupid. It would be a great illustration. As I pull out a .45, I would create a lot of reverent fear in you. Not because you thought I would shoot you, but you would be thinking, “I hope he knows what he is doing. I hope that thing is not loaded.” A lot of people have checked their guns and thought it was unloaded and even took the clip out, but there was still something in the chamber. You should have a reverent fear for a handgun. Right? I have committed myself to not having a handgun. One of my best friends in California was a highway patrol officer and this guy was disciplined. He followed procedure. He did everything right but he still blew the back window out of his car with his handgun. Now, if he can do that, what do you think I can do? Do you have a reverent fear for the power and danger of a handgun? Whether you think it is loaded or not, there should still be reverent fear. And that is the same kind of reverent fear we should have for God--of His power, of His goodness, of His love. Reverent fear toward God is having a deep respect for who He is and what He can do. Even if He does not ‘shoot you’. Even if He does not ‘go off’ on you. That is what Peter is saying about our Father. He may be our heavenly Father but He is also the Creator of heaven and earth—all powerful and all knowing. We are not to take advantage of His desire to be kind and gentle toward us. We must not forget who He is!
Let me read verse 17 in the language we would use today. “You call the Father for help and he helps because he is a good God. But do not forget he is also a responsible Father and impartial judge who will not let you get by with sloppy living. So live each day here as a foreigner in reverent respect for His ways.” He wants to team with you in life, to partner with you in life, to sustain your spirit, to give you wisdom and understanding when you need it and ask for it. But do not forget, He is also a responsible Father. A father who does not discipline his children, is not a responsible father. He is raising weeds. Just letting them grow-up to feel, think, and do whatever they want is not in their best interest. “Well, I do not want to quell their spirit.” Then they are going to have a wild spirit. A responsible father builds discipline and character into his children and it is a hard job.
So often we are tempted to just be their buddy. "I just want to be their best friend." A father who wants to be the best friend to his son or daughter needs to build quality characteristics of discipline and understanding into their lives, not just give them whatever they want. We have a three-year old granddaughter and we see it takes work and effectiveness to try to train a person, a little person who still has a very strong will to want to do things her way, when she wants it, the way she wants it. It is simple to see this three-year old does not understand and she makes some stupid choices but sometimes my choices I make at 58 are just as stupid as her choices, just as selfish, just as me-centered. This is something we all need to work at learning and walking through because He will not let us get by with sloppy living. Why? Because He loves us too much.
I love that expression, “I will not let you get by with sloppy living.” Is there some sloppy living going on in your life? Do you have an area in your life that is out of control, maybe your personal area of sloppiness? Spiritually, God says, “This is hurting you. It is hurting others around you. It will be better for you and others if you would clean it up. Your life would be more ordered and protected if you just clean up this area of your sloppy living.” God loves us enough as an impartial judge to not let us get away with sloppy living.
Reflecting back on what we have learned in the first part of the chapter, Peter says (verse 18), “For He has redeemed us from a futile way of life.” A way of life that just pleases yourself, that bears no real fruit. Maybe you do some nice things, maybe you get along with people, but that alone does not have any lasting value. Maybe you have found success at your job or sport or the exhibition of some skill but that alone does not have any lasting value. To redeem us from a futile way of life it cost God a lot. The cost was not mere silver or gold, but His Son’s precious blood (verses 18-19). We think silver and gold are precious and special and of great worth. They are of no more eternal value than lead or dirt. His Son’s blood, the one whom He loved, who gave His life for us, was precious to Him and He loved us enough to shed it..
The life, ministry, and sacrificial death of Christ were planned by the Father before the beginning of creation (verse 20). It was part of God’s plan and design, which is good news. It was not just happenstance. God was not second guessing or trying to catch up with our sin. And He did it all (verse 21), “So that your faith and your hope might rest in Him, not in yourselves.” You catch what that is saying? Your eternal future does not depend on how good you are this week or next week or last week. It depends on your relationship with Him as Lord and Savior. It is secured in Him. That is good news. Are you not glad it does not depend upon you? Our faith and hope does not depend upon who we are or how good we behave, but His trustworthiness and love for us. Because of this, then, we are to live our lives in holy reverence for who He is and what He has said in His word.
We need to recognize that our Father, the God who loves us, the God who sent His Son to die for us, the God who is loving and gracious, is also a judge. Do you remember the Andy Griffith Show? He played a character named Andy Taylor. He was sheriff of Mayberry. He was also the father of Opie Taylor. He had to play both roles and if Opie did something wrong, he never stopped being sheriff. Do not forget your Father is also a judge. He stands for doing the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right attitude. That is His character. He is dad, but He is also the holy one, the righteous one. And that means for us, even though we are His kids, Dad does not drop the rules just because you are his child. “Oh, Opie, it does not matter. You are my son. You can do whatever you want. You belong to me. You bear my last name. Opie Taylor, you have a free pass.” You know what that does? It raises brats and what I want you to know, God says, “Do not be a spiritual brat.” A brat is someone who says, “I do not have to obey the rules because my dad’s bigger than your dad. I know the judge so it does not matter.” You know, just a snotty rule breaker. We do the same thing when we think, “I am forgiven so this really does not matter. I am still going to get to go to heaven. I am still loved by God. I am still forgiven. So, it does not matter. So I get to be a spiritual brat.”
Sometimes this attitude is exasperated because there are no immediate consequences for our actions. No one knows I got away with it and so we think, “I am smarter than God. I can get away with anything I want.” Then you start playing those games, start trying to get away with things. Sin always has consequences and will shape your character and your character will influence the lives of those around you. Dad does not drop the rules just because you are his child. He still says, “Do not do these things.” Another way of saying this is, godless living is no less repulsive when it is lived by His own kids. It is one thing for a stranger’s kid to do something. It is another for your own child to do something when you have taught him and you have cared for him and nurtured him and tried to get him to understand these things. You have adopted him into your family and he is throwing it back in your face. Godless living is no less repulsive just because it is your own kids doing it.
I just want to give you a little bit of background perspective to recognize that judgment has always been part of life. From the beginning, judgment has been a part of life. So let us take a quick survey of the judgments. We are not trying to say everything there is to know about judgment but enough to understand how judgment has been a part of who God has made us to be.
The Past Judgments
1) Judgment of Satan and the Fallen Angels: Isaiah 14:12-14; 2 Peter 2:4 From the distant past, judgment existed as God judged Satan and his angels as recorded in Isaiah. “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." God also did not spare his own angels when they sinned by following Satan’s rebellion, but he sent them to hell to be held for judgment, judgment that will happen at some point in the future.
2) Judgment of Rebellion (Adam, Eve, Cain, mankind, Israel): Genesis 3:23-24, 4:11-12, 6:5-6; Jeremiah 1:16 Adam. Eve, Cain, mankind, and Israel ignored what God said and did things their own way. Adam and Eve sinned because they sought personal glory, much like Satan did. God banished them from an environment made just for them; an environment that was made for them to succeed. He banished them from the garden lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever and that would not be a blessing for them or the community of humans like themselves. Cain rejected God’s sacrificial provision by bringing the works of his own hand and once exposed his unbelief showed itself when he murdered his brother, Abel. God judged Cain and said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." And then keeping with the theme of rebellion, mankind was judged by the flood recorded in Genesis 6. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness had become, that every inclination of their thoughts, of their heart was only evil all the time.” Did you catch the all inclusiveness of that? Every thought of their hearts, always evil, all the time. There was nothing worthy of redeeming. The Lord is grieved by the wickedness of man on the earth and His heart was filled with pain so there was judgment in the form of a flood. And then Israel chose to go its own way. God said in Jeremiah, “I will pronounce my judgments on my people because they are full of wickedness and forsaking me. They have walked away from my house and my rules. They have walked away from me and so I will let them live without me.” They went into exile.
3) Judgment of Christ for our sin: 2 Corinthians 5:21 Jesus Christ was judged in our place. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” He took our sin upon Himself and God judged us in Him and His death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin. That was God’s judgment in the past that gives us freedom and salvation now.
The Present Judgments
1) Judgment of Wayward Believers: 1 Corinthians 11:31-32; Hebrews 12:10 This judgment is not something we normally think about—the judgment of wayward believers. Because I sometimes refuse to go where God wants me to go, God disciplines us for our good to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace in us. We will reap what we sow. A couple weeks ago Katie and I were going through some personal stuff. Something she said hurt my feelings. She was not wrong, she was not bad, she was not mean. She just said something that stirred up my past and made me feel bad. And I had to decide whether I was going to be controlled by how I felt or what I thought or what I knew was right. I wanted to argue back with her. I wanted to tell her, “Hey, I am the boss and I . . .” but I let my spirit speak to me and my spirit said, “Shut up and get out of the room.” I knew I could not say anything good right then. It was beyond my human capability. I knew I could have prayed, but right then, get out! Why? Because I did not want to kill her spirit and if I did that I would reap the consequence of my sin in my relationship with her. I want a good relationship with this lady. I get to live with her. She has to live with me, but I get to live with her. And I want her life to be better and so I have to work at making that relationship good. And guys, gals, you know what I am talking about. You will reap the consequences of your behavior and actions.
2) Judgment of Oneself: 1 Corinthians 11:28,31; 2 Corinthians 13:4 We are called to judge ourselves. “A man ought to examine himself.” If we judge ourselves, then we should not be judged. If we look at what we want to do and say, “I do not think God wants me to do this” and then do not do it we sidestep a problem. We sidestepped judgment. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith,” 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us. Test yourselves. Am I listening to God in the things that are going on or am I listening to someone else? Am I listening to God or am I just listening to my head, my heart, or my gut? Examine yourselves according to God’s Word and His ways so God will not have to.
3) Judgment of One-Another: Romans 14:13; Matthew 7:1-5 Very simply, let us stop passing judgment on one another. I have no role to come into your life and start poking my finger in your life. That is not my role. Even as a pastor, that is not my role. If I were to sit down with someone and he was to share with me, I could say, “Well, that was stupid.” And he would go, “Yeah.” Because we could confer, we could discern, we could talk together, but it is not my role to step into his life and become his judge. Who is his judge? God is. Jesus said it very clearly, whether it is in marriage, out of marriage, even parents. “Get the log out of your own eye before you start picking on other people.” Jesus is very clear about that. We are to trust discernment, care, and understanding, especially as parents with our kids, but we are not to go around judging, that means condemning. That is not the same as discernment and discipline when needed. God does have standards and everything is not permitted but we are not judges so do not go around judging other people.
The Future Judgments
1) Judgment of Believers: 2 Corinthians 4:10 We are not going to spend a lot of time here, but you need to recognize three different future judgments. The first is the judgment of believers. Believers must appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each may receive what is due him, things that have been done in the body, whether good or bad. Now, what I want you to catch here is, it is not a matter of punishment. It is going to focus on the fruitfulness of your life. It is a matter of whether the things you have done in your life are going to bear fruit or just going to be unrecognized because they were done with the wrong motives. There is going to be a sense of suffering and loss of what could have been. But it is not a matter of punishment. The one who has done the least in his life, at the judgment seat of Christ, is still going to be happy he is saved from condemnation. But we will be accountable for what we have done. Yes, there will be rewards but there will also be a sense of loss when we discover what might have been. In Revelation 4:10-11, it says believers (represented by the twenty-four elders) will cast their rewards (crowns) at the feet of Christ out of recognition of who He is and what he has done in our lives. To not have much to lay at His feet (to give back) is a sad thing.
2) Judgment of the Tribulation: Revelation 19-20; Matthew 25:31ff You have heard about the tribulation, you have read the books, seen the movies about all the bad things coming. There will be judgment upon the earth. A lot of the bad things that are going to happen, folks, is God letting this world be what the world says it is. For instance, how many movies have we seen in the last ten years about asteroids colliding with the earth? The message is that we are just a random planet out here in the galaxy and what is preventing, what is stopping some meteor or some other planet from running into us? "It has happened in the past so why not now? I mean, it is all just haphazard down here as it is, it is all just a matter of chance, and what are the chances that we are going to be protected for all our lives? I mean, odds are pretty good something is going to run into us because there is nothing out there that can protect us." We believe in the Designer who designed it and set everything in motion to work smoothly and oiled like a machine. But there is coming a point when God says, “Ok, now it is haphazard folks. You say I am not here, I am going to step aside for a little bit and you can see what it would be like if I was not here.” And you see all that can happen. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is restraining evil during this time. But then there is coming a time when He steps aside and says, “Ok, you wanted to say there is not a God and I am not around, here is what it would be like if I was not around.” And Revelation talks about collisions and plagues and disasters upon the earth. I do not see God making all this stuff happen. “Oh, watch this one. I will get them.” I see God saying, “Ok, if I am not around, oh, it is bad out there. All kinds of things could happen. You have not seen what I have done to protect you.” It is like, parents, your kid says, “You never take care of me.” You say, “Ok, you are on your own for a week.” They come down for dinner and there is no place set for them. They go back to their room and the room has been converted to a sewing room. They ask for the keys to the car. “What car? You do not have a car.” “Ok, you want to live on your own? You are on your own.” “But, but, but…” You got the point? That is the tribulation and there are all kinds of judgments on different groups of people during that time.
3) Judgment of all Mankind: Revelation 20:11ff Then the judgment most people refer to when they think about judgment—the Great White Throne Judgment. It is called that because that is where it takes place—before the throne of God. Yikes! How intimidating is that? I know I am not worthy to stand there on my own. But when I stand there in Christ I am accepted and treasured as a child of God. Revelation 20:11-15 says that all who are not found written in the book of life, forgiven in Christ, will fail this judgment and the results will be eternal separation from God and His blessings—the second death (verse 14).
Can I tell you, as I close things down, that judgment is a good thing. We tend to think of judgment as being a bad thing, but judgment is a good thing because it declares and means something that we all know in our hearts that character and actions matter. That what we do makes a difference. How we live is important. There is a difference between right and wrong. There is a right and wrong. Everything inside us tells us that. And judgment affirms it that God cares about right and wrong enough to say, "It matters." God could say, “Ah, it does not matter what you do. It is ok. Do whatever you feel like. It is all right. If you feel it is right, it must be right.” God says, “No, there is right and wrong because it is not just about you. It is about the others I have involved in your life and the way you treat them and the things that you do.” Character and actions matter. Judgment is a good thing.
Secondly, judgment is a necessary thing. Accountability is required. You know how lazy you are. God cares enough to give us a standard. And a standard is only effective if it is enforced. So He helps us out by holding us accountable.
Judgment is also a sure thing. “For it is appointed unto man once to die and then comes judgment.” Whether it will be at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ or at the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be judgment because God cares about our lives and the way we act and the way we are and we want a world, we want life to be different and better. We want a world in which people are doing the right thing and we are doing the right thing. If Katie and I see each other in heaven and for some reason she still wants to be with me in heaven, she does not want to be with this David. She wants to be with a better David. I know I need to be better. I know I can be, but not, well, I am not sure what to do with that. I am working at it. And as I said before, sin always has consequences. It is a sure thing.
And then finally, judgment is motivating. It is motivating because it says, “Let us run for the prize.” This is not mercenary. This is not God bargaining with us. It is not just saying, “Ok, God, I will be good if you give me a reward.” No. Natalie is three. At this point, we will give Natalie chocolate if she does the right thing. If you are potty training a child, ok, you are going to reward them for things. When they start saying, “Ok, I will be good if you give me something,” that is when things get off course. When we start giving rewards and start negotiating, then things are on course. When we want to establish the requirements and rewards and say, “Your behavior is so important to me that I am going to give you this if you do that. I want to train you to do the right thing,” then things are on the right course. And God is the one who has established rewards. God is the one who says, “Your character is important enough, your character is going to matter forever. The things you do here have impact forever.” So then He says, “Let us spur on one another to love and good deeds.” That we are responsible to each other, keep each other moving in the right direction. Judgment should be a motivating thing. That is what I am talking about when I say judgment can help us thrive. It is designed to move us in right directions according to God’s plan for our lives.
1 Peter 1:23—2:1: Putting Away the Perishable Seed
1 Peter 1:23 -2:1--“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”
If you remember Peter was writing to those up in Asia, Capedocia, Bythnia, and Pontius that had lost their homes, families, businesses, savings, they lost everything and were transplanted to live with people they did not know and did not like. They faced challenges of attitude, of survival, of trusting a God who let these things happen to them. How can God let this happen to us? And Peter says, “Do not give up. God is still there and God is still involved.”
And after telling them that because God has chosen them to be His children, they are to live holy lives, he explains to them the trustworthiness and permanence of what God has done for them when they were born again at the initial moment of salvation. Verses 23-25: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”
Through the whole first chapter Peter’s focus is of letting us know who God is and who we are, to encourage us and is essentially saying, “You have a living, powerful, wonderful, loving God. God is real. He is not in your imagination. He is not a theory. He is not a force. He is not an idea. He is not a concept. He is a real, living being who is involved in your lives. He does not let go or let loose. He does not have a blind side. He does not turn back and go and do other things in other galaxies and forget about us here. Our God is not a deist God who winds us up and lets us go and see how everything will work out, but He is actively involved in our lives. There is nothing that happens in your life that God is not vitally aware of and cares about as much or far more than even you care about.”
And now in verse 25 Peter explains God’s trustworthiness. What God has said, He will do. What He has promised, He will fulfill. When you read through Hebrews you will see that during the history of Israel all the things that God did with them and through them and for them He did exactly according to promise. We have a God who keeps His word. Do you know that God will keep His word for you? That God is involved, God is real, and God is trustworthy in your life? That is what the first chapter is about, wanting to affirm to you that He has given you an inheritance based upon His promises of future blessing. He is with us. God is real and involved and trustworthy. We can build our lives upon Him and what He has told us to do.
By selecting us God has said that He wants us. Every child of God has been chosen by Him to be a member of His family. Unlike childhood games in which some were chosen last, each of us is equally chosen to be with Him as His spiritual child. God says, “I designed you and I want you.” As I look at the variety of people in God’s family, I see differences of personality and abilities but each has the same spiritual Father, the same source for spiritual strength and vitality.
Verse 23 tells us we have been born from an imperishable seed. We can have confidence in what God has done for us; in the salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus. As we saw in verses 4-7, there are now aspects of salvation and there are future aspects of salvation. And concerning those future aspects because we have the promise of a trustworthy God we can base our lives on what He has told us to do, how he has told us to live. He has told us, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” As David gave testimony, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” I know God is there. I know I need some help. I am scared. I am worried. I am concerned. I have fears. I see lions and tigers and bears, but my God is above it all. God is real, involved, and trustworthy.
And then in chapter two, verse 1, He tells us how to begin applying the present aspects of salvation to our lives, by saying, “So, because of all this. Because of who He is, because of who you are, now it is time to get on with your Christian lives.” The sign on our church sign says, “Ok, so you’re a Christian. Are you growing?” God designed us for growth because He cares about our lives, He cares about those around us. There are all kinds of things that need to be torn out of our lives and others that need to be built into our lives. “So you are a Christian, but are you growing?”
We have a nursery. Would it not be sad if kids go in the nursery and never come out? They never grow or mature? Do you know anybody who is a Christian who has never grown in their Christian walk? They may not say, “I have my ticket to heaven so it does not matter how I live,” but the way they live shows it. “Salvation” has not changed their lives or the way they think. Is it possible to be born again and not show any sign of the new life that is in you for the rest of your life? John tells us in 1 John the answer to that question is, no. But it is possible to be stunted in the growth of the new life in us. Peter tells us in 2:1 that the first step is taking the negative behaviors and attitudes out of our lives. Before the new life can grow and draw us closer to God and Christlikeness certain things need to be eliminated first.
In your own life, are you where God desires you to be in your spiritual growth? Connect with God's desires, because where He desires you, He will enable, empower, and take you if you are willing. But He is not going to push you; He is not going to shove you. He is going to nudge you a lot. He is going to open a lot of doors. Do you want to grow your patience? Yeah, so is He going to give you some frustrations? Uh, oh. Do you want to grow your love? Then He may bring some unloving people in your life? Do you want to grow your faith? Then He may bring some trials and tests into your life because without them, you do not grow. Now, you can muddle around in the same turmoil and never grow, or you can get beyond them and continue to grow in your walk with Him.
So, what does he say? Chapter two, verse one: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all spiteful behavior and all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and unkind speech.” Let us look at the first phrase. “So, get rid of all spiteful behavior.” Some of your versions say “malice.” Some of your versions say “evil behavior.” It literally means “spiteful.” You want to get back at somebody. Notice the first thing Peter picks out when he starts to write here is how you get along with others, your human relationships. It is not, “make sure you never think any bad thoughts. Make sure you do not steal.” But “get along with people better. Treat each other in ways that do not include spitefulness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and unkind speech.”
Paul teaches the same thing. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:20. “For I am afraid when I come, I may not find you as I want you to be, but more importantly as God wants you to be. And you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling and jealousy and outbursts of anger and factions and slander and gossip and arrogance and disorder.” Uh, oh. He is talking about the church. Anybody want to go to the Corinthian church? “I want to be a New Testament church.” Ok, well, we need a little more quarreling and jealousy and outbursts of anger and slander and gossip and arrogance. You know the problem with the first century church? It was filled with people. You know the problem with our church? Filled with people. And we are broken. But God works to move us beyond our brokenness, to grow us, to heal us, and that is what He is going to talk about in this section.
Let us look a little closer at what it is saying here. “So, get rid.” “Get rid of” means to clean house, to make a clean sweep of all malice and pretense and envy and hurtful talk. There is spiritual and moral junk in your house that is stinking it up and everyone who comes into it sees and smells it, but they do not want to say anything. The Living Bible says, “So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good. Be done with dishonesty and jealousy, talking about others behind their backs.” Make a complete sweep of these things in your life.
As we are going to see, God wants us to clean house because it is like choosing life over death. Choosing things which bring spiritual life into our lives rather than kill us and our relationships with God and man. It is trusting the Designer by listening to His guidance of how He designed us to live. Do you realize that God loves to bless His children? He has designed so many good things for us. But there are some good things we do not have because they are not the best things for us and God is always working for our best, not our pleasure, not our comfort, but for our best. So, get rid of all spiteful behavior, all deceit, all unkind words. It is not about perfection, not saying, “I want you absolutely perfect.” It is recognizing every one of these things, every little flavor of deceit or flavor of jealousy or flavor of hypocrisy, or flavor of spiteful behavior is poison in our lives.
The next time you have breakfast do not worry about the pancake syrup. There is no strychnine in it, just a little RoundUp. But it will not hurt you. It is for plants. How bad can it be? Do not worry about it. It is just a little poison. Ok? Are you fine with that? Just a little bit is all it takes to poison relationships and poison lives, to poison a church, to poison a marriage, to poison a family, to poison a business. God says, “Get rid of them all! Now!”
You do not need a Greek background to understand these words. Our wills and our tendencies to justify our own bad actions hinder us from sweeping them out of our lives not a lack of understanding. Everything we are talking about should not be news to you. Anybody here surprised that God says, “Do not be a hypocrite? Do not be deceitful? Do not speak harshly to one another? Do not be jealous?” Is that news to anybody? So, why are we spending time on it? Maybe because it is still something that needs to be rooted out of our lives, that there are aspects of these negative characteristics that still exist in each one of us. And God in His infinite mercy wants to free us of this death that is in us. I am telling you, it is for our good and our blessing that we take them out of our lives. And realize it is most important because without this clean sweep the new life that is ours will not develop and grow in us.
Get rid of:
All spiteful behavior – attacking others who are also God’s precious creations. Spiteful behaviors of all kind are aggressively hurtful of another. These behaviors are born from attitudes of contempt and malice.
All deceit – trading who I am for what I want. Deceit is to compromise to get what I want by lying or deception. It is sacrificing honesty and integrity to get what I want.
All hypocrisy – living with masks. It is being two-faced to get what you want or it is hiding who you are to gain something you want.
All jealousy – distrust of God’s provision and blessing. It wants what someone else has without asking whether it is God’s best for me. It is forgetting that someone might have something not because God gave it to him or her but because he or she took it without asking Him. They are the masters of their own lives not God. You have essentially, then, become jealous of someone who is not seeking God’s will for his or her life. It is also important to not forget that each one of us has his or her own path to walk. Having little or a lot does not identify you as faithful, spiritual or godly (1 Timothy 6:5).
All unkind speech – verbal harpoons. Unkind speech is intended to injure and tear down another—it is aggressive. Harpoons are made, designed to stick into the flesh. Verbal harpoons are designed to stick in the hearts of someone you want to harm. There are different ways to harm another and we all know that verbal assaults can be just as devastating as physical assaults—sometimes worse.
Think of the new life that has been seeded in us as a seed newly planted in a garden. It is a tender seed that will bear fruit that will nourish both ourselves and others we come in contact with, and chiefly our relationship with God. But it needs to be nourished, watered, and protected. And part of that protection is rooting out and keeping weeds away. Weeds will grow so fast that they suck the nutrients and water from the ground before the seed can benefit from them. Weeds will literally choke the life out of a fruit-bearing plant. That is why a good gardener tends to his or her garden by first ripping the weeds out and then feeding and watering the good seed.
Using gardening as an analogy, spiteful behavior, jealousy, deceit, and unkind behavior are weeds that are destroying the spiritual garden God is trying to plant in our lives. I am telling you, it is for our good and blessing that we deny ourselves the pleasures that come from spiteful, unkind, and selfish behaviors. When we stand back and analyze the situation we can easily recognize the badness of these behaviors but when we are tempted to enact them they seem like good ideas to get what we want. Why? Because when we take the attitude that what we want is supreme, just about any means will be acceptable to get what we want—even intentionally hurting another human being.
As I said before, this is not news to us. It is not complicated to understand. We must ask ourselves, therefore, “why don’t we just do things God’s way?” Is God smarter than you? Is God’s way good for you? Well, what is wrong with us? Walking by faith means we live in such a way that shows that God’s ways are the best ways. And often that means denying ourselves and our immediate feelings and strategies for getting what we want. God is different and we are to be holy, because He is holy!
Scripture tells us that certain things characterize ‘deathness’ and certain things characterize ‘lifeness’. Second Peter 1:9 tells us that it is possible for a Christian to “forget” that they have been cleansed of their sins and actually enact attitudes and behaviors that work against the spiritual life that was received at the new birth. Second Peter 1:8-9: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” Look at the contrast below:
Guilt Grace Anger Peace Vengeful Merciful Reactionary Reasoned Walks by Sight Walks by Faith Follows the World Follows the Word
Although the Christian has been born again into new life and has been redeemed unto eternal life, he or she can still experience the negatives of sin in his or her earthly life. Deathness is the fruit of following the world. Lifeness is the fruit of following God’s Word while looking to Christ as our Lord and example. Deathness without forgiveness results in the Second Death (Revelation 20:11-14). Deathness in the Christian’s life brings suffering and hinders blessing. In contrast, the new life that is ours in Christ grows in us when we consciously and with purpose seek ‘lifeness’ in our lives. As 2 Peter 1:8 states, ‘lifeness’ will bless our lives with Christlikeness. And Christlikeness is characterized by grace, peace, mercy, spiritual reason, faith, and obedience.
In order for the new life to grow and prosper in us 1 Peter 2:1 tells us that we first need to let go of certain things. We are to let go of A in order to grasp B. As we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13), so we cannot hold onto B without letting go of A.
Let go of: In order to grasp: Spiteful behavior Graciousness Deceit Sincerity; integrity Hypocrisy Genuineness; transparency Jealousy Contentment Unkind speech Kindness; compassion
Ultimately, Peter’s message is not so much the letting go of bad stuff but the grasping of good stuff. God wants certain characteristics to be present in our lives so that He can bless us with the fruits of the new life that is in us. But in order for that to be true we first need to purposefully distance ourselves from, make a clean sweep of, things such as spiteful behavior, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and unkind speech. Do you love and admire Jesus Christ enough to emulate Him in your life? If so, then put those things listed in 1 Peter 2:1 out of your lives!