Category Archives: 1 Peter

21Apr/18

Obeying God and not man

1 Peter 2v13-17. 

Peter in verses 11&12 introduces a package of teaching on how we are to live, as citizens of heaven, in the context of society, in enterprise, and in family.   And this morning we are going to look at that first aspect – living Godly lives in the context of society, or government.

The goal of living godly lives, or pursuing holiness, of being a citizen of heaven, is the glory of God so that those who do not believe in Jesus will turn to Him because of the excellent behaviour we demonstrate as we live as unashamed aliens in this world. 

Now to kick this off, I looked on the internet for some stupid laws that have been made over the years in various nations of the world and I’ve picked out a few for you.

In Thailand it is illegal to step on money.

Here’s one they should adopt in this country:  In Singapore, selling non-medical chewing gum or chewing normal gum is a fine of $1000. A second offence costs $2000 and you are forced to clean a public area of the city for a day.

In the US state of Florida, it’s illegal to break wind in a public place after 6pm on a Thursday.

Australians are always up for a laugh and they did not disappoint, because in Australia, it is illegal to wear hot pink pants after midday on a Sunday.

But the best must be reserved for our great nation of Britain because as well as it being illegal to die in the House Of Parliament, and it also is illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances, whatever that means and what must be my absolute favourite and something the Scottish Government need to pay attention to because by law, any great Sturgeon caught in the UK is the property of the Queen.

 

There is lots happening in the political arena just now not only in our own nation, but across the globe. In our own nation, Brexit negotiations have been triggered; Scottish Independence is back in the agenda; local council elections are taking place, the campaigning by candidates to win your vote has started.  Let’s face it – there are some policies and bills within Parliament being progressed by the Scottish and British governments that we agree with and, that we do not agree with, and it’s changing all the time, as governments seek to implement policies they think best for a continually changing society and culture in which we find ourselves today.

Now we know that not all laws in this land line up with the laws of God.  There are times when the supreme authority of government will be in conflict with the absolute authority of God, and that will happen in 2 ways.

The first way will be times when the government says we have to do something, but God clearly tells us not to.  In those situations, if we go against God’s rule, we sin.  And then there will be times when the government tells us not to do something and we still do it because God tells us to.  In that situation, we are not sinning, because we are still obeying God, although we are in effect breaking the law.

So what does God have to say to us about this?  Well the most important thing this passage has to say is to put our our social and political life into relation to God.  The Bible is not a book about how to get along in the world.  It is a book inspired by God about how to live to God.  That’s what Peter has been talking about up to this point – our great salvation in Jesus; our hope to see us through trials and suffering; our pursuit of holiness; our love, our life, our light, our living as aliens and strangers in this world.

Paul said in Galatians 2:19, “For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God”. The aim of life—including our social and political life—is to live to God.  To live with God in view. To live under his authority. To live on Him like we live on air, food and water. To live for his good reputation.  To live for His glory.

So how do we live as those who obey God and not man in the context of living as we do in a land governed by human institutions.   Well to do this, I’m going to

  • firstly outline the purpose or role of Government
  • secondly explain how we are to respond to that, before then
  • showing how we can obey God and not man

So what is the role of government.

We get this from verse 14.

Submit …to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 

Paul says in Romans 13v1 says that there is no authority on earth except that which God has established and Peter in verse 14, tells us that the purpose of government is to punish evil and praise good.  He expresses what God designed government for: to stop the river of evil that flows from the heart of man so that it does not flood the world with anarchy. 

However we know that not all governments enact what God designed governments to be, but we do know that all governments are established by God for His own sovereign purpose and sometimes we find that hard to understand, but we always need to focus on what we know rather than what we don’t know.

And what we do know is that we are encouraged to pray for governments.  Paul urges Timothy that we are to pray for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  

You see Governments do not save souls; they are to maintain external order in a world full of evil so that we can be free to live our lives in, did you notice it…. in peace and in all godliness and holiness – in other words, we pray that governments will allow the flow of the gospel – so that those in that land can be free to live as citizens of heaven, pointing to the glory of God, so that others come to know this great salvation that we have in Jesus.  Because only Jesus is the answer to the evil in this world because only Jesus saves!

So very briefly, that is the role of government, but

How are we to respond to that.

The passage starts in verse 13 by telling us to submit for the Lord’s sake to those governments and the end of verse 17 tells us we are to honour the king, or in our case the Queen and her government.

Submission and honour.  But the submission is for the Lord’s sake and the honour is in the context of a fear of God.

Let’s start at the end of the passage because verse 17 summarises the attitude we are to have in society.

Show proper respect to everyone:  Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king. 

This covers all the bases of society.  And there is a progression here I think. First, give to all human beings a basic respect.

Then beyond that common respect for all humanity, there is a special love that is to be given to the brotherhood of believers, that is, fellow Christians.

Then beyond that common respect for all and that special love for Christians, there is a special fear appropriate to God, and no one else.

Then, honour to the king, or to the government.  For us that means the Queen, the Prime Minister, or the First Minister.   Notice they are not to be feared like God, and they need not be loved as we love our fellow believers. But they must be honoured.

So, according to verse 17, we are to give respect to all mankind, then up a level, as well as respect, we honour those in government, then again as well as respect and honour, a level up of love for our fellow believers, and then right at the top, we need to live in reverent fear of God.  Those are our general priorities living in this society.  God is our priority.

Verse 13 agrees with that when it says:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors

The key phrase in verse 13 is “for the Lord’s sake.”  If you miss that, you miss everything about this whole passage.  

And what makes this issue of submission for the Lord’s sake so urgent for Peter that he brings it up straight away, is because of what he has said in the previous four verses. In verse 9 he said that Christians are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  In verse 10 he said that we are now “the people of God.” In verse 11 he said that we are therefore aliens and strangers here among the social and political institutions of this world.

All of that raises the question on whether we should have any allegiance to the institutions of this world at all. If we are a separate “holy nation” and if we are “God’s people” and if we are “aliens and strangers,” perhaps then we should withdraw into our own Christian communities and have nothing to do with the powers and institutions of the world. Peter’s answer to that is NO.

While we are in this world, we are (in different senses) citizens of two orders, two systems. This world with its necessary institutions, and the kingdom of God with its necessary values. This is not because the two orders have equal authority, but because God is the ruler and owner of both, and when you belong first to him and his kingdom, you can be sent by him, for his sake, for his purposes, for his glory into the kingdom of this world.

So if you take verse 17 to honour the government, and verse 13 to submit to the government for the Lord’s sake, that means you can in effect look into the eye of the queen, or Prime Minster, or the First Minister, and say, “I submit to you, I honour you—but not for your sake. I honour you for God’s sake. I honour you because God rules over you and has raised you up for a limited season and given you the leadership that you have. So for His sake and for His glory and because of his rightful authority over you, I honour you.”  

Now I know that some of us will find that very difficult to swallow, because of who the Prime Minister and First Ministers are and the political parties they represent.  But that is the instruction of scripture and that is living in reverent fear of God.  That is pursuing holiness.

So we need to be careful when it comes to politics and talking about the government and those holding office. Because, as we said last week, it is so easy to fall into the culture and society around us that express hate at those holding office simply because you don’t agree with the policies they are implementing.

When Baroness Thatcher died, the song ding dong the witch is dead climbed up the charts.  People joined in – ha ha ha, what a laugh.  I found that very disturbing.  While I know she was not popular here in Scotland, and she was still someone to be respected and honoured.  We need to be careful when talking about government.  It has to be with respect and honour, for the Lords sake. 

So our response to government, according to verses 13-17 is we are to show submission to them for the Lord’s sake and honour to them, because our priority is God.

So how do we obey God and not man

Now in the vast majority of cases, it’s pretty easy to comply with the laws government has established, but again we do not submit to them because it’s the law, we submit to them for the sake of the Lord – we look first to Him as our absolute authority.

So taking a very simple government law like the speed limit, we submit to that law, we keep the speed limit, not because we want to avoid a speeding ticket, but we submit to it for the Lord’s sake, as an act of worship.  We submit because we have the freedom to do so.

Verse 16 says that we are to 

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as servants of God.

When we think of living as free people, we tend to think of people that do what they want to do!  There are no rules, we can just be free;  Freedom says that we can drive at 90 mph in a 40 limit – but that is not what Peter is saying – we cannot use our freedom as an excuse to cover up evil, as an excuse to do wrong, but use our freedom to show that we are God’s servants – in other words live as those who point to the glory of God. 

And to use the example of driving at 90 in a 40 does not point to the glory of God, because it’s behaviour that is not excellent, it’s actually foolish and causes accidents.

But what about when the law of the land conflicts with the law of God.  History tells us that Christian influence, like William Wilberforce, helped changed laws to be aligned more with scripture, but we also know there are laws now that do not agree with scripture.  And there are lots of examples in the bible, like in Daniel and Acts, that show believers going to jail because they obeyed God and not man, so we can’t ignore this issue.  Because when you break the law of the land but not break the law of God, you will face a fine or go to jail, because the government has to maintain order in society and the law of the land is the means of doing that.  

So when Peter says in verse 12 that we are to live such good lives that, though they accuse you of doing wrong.…  In other words if our lives as citizens of heaven are lived in such a way that means we have no choice but to break the law of the land because it’s against the law of God, then we have to be willing to submit to the authority of the land, for the Lord’s sake.

And those days are already here, but it is how we disobey if we have to disobey that is important. Because we still need to give glory to God and give honour to those we are submitting to for the Lord’s sake.  If we are serious about living for God as aliens and strangers in this world, what we cannot do is simply comply with laws that exist that are clearly against the law of God.  If we do that, we are not submitting to them for the Lords’s sake, we are submitting to them for our own sake. So much thought and prayer is needed in this area because if we are faced with a situation that means we will be obeying God over man, we need to know its for His glory. 

Conclusion

This passage has so much to say to us today in respect of the role of government, our attitude to it and how we respond to the laws those governments set.

You see, we need to take our direction in all this from the will of God.  Verse 15.  As aliens and strangers in this world, we need to consult our Lord and Saviour on how to live in this world.

His aim for us is that we live such good lives, show such excellent behaviour, so that other see that we are unashamedly living for Jesus.   And we get that guidance from the will of God, which we understand through the Word and through the Spirit.

Looking ahead Jesus chose to obey God and not man. He lived for God.  He chose God’s will, not His own.  He submitted himself to the human institutions of this world.  For you and for me, that we may know this great salvation we have in Jesus.

I wonder this morning are we prepared to live for God, because it comes with a cost.  Salvation is free but living for Him has a cost.  Will we be people that obey God and not man.  Will we be people that live for His glory in the context of society and human government?

And it maybe for a time the human institutions feel like they are winning;  In Jesus’ case, to coin a phrase…. that was Friday….  Sunday’s coming!

And when we live for God, Sunday’s a coming!

So live for God.  Live such good lives, by showing excellent behaviour, by living as an alien and stranger in this world, by pursuing holiness, by being unashamed to be identified as a citizen of heaven, by obeying God and not man  – so that – look at the end of verse 15 – so that you silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

In other words, let people see through living to the Word and to the Spirit, that Jesus is real, that God’s not dead, that their opinion of Christians may be changed, that their ignorant and foolish talk may be silenced and turn to recognition that there is integrity to what we profess to believe. 

And that involves choosing to willing submit to government laws for the Lords sake; and it may involve willingly submitting to government punishment if we find we have no choice but to obey God and not man.  And we do these things in order that the reputation of the Lord’s name will be honoured, that the name of the Lord may be renowned once more, because people see Jesus living in us, because people see us obeying God as our absolute authority.

Amen.

21Apr/18

Be the Alien you are!

1 Peter 2v11-12

 

 

These 2 verses introduce a package of practical teaching from Peter of what it means to pursue holiness in the different contexts we find in life – as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family.

He starts with a reminder that we are aliens and strangers in this world.

The world “alien” immediately, for those of us who love a little bit of science fiction, immediately makes us think of strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations, of boldly going where no man has gone before 🙂

The word “stranger”, we are brought up to believe they are someone to avoid – stranger danger.  Don’t talk to strangers.

But Peter also knows that the word “alien” means a foreigner, and “stranger” to mean a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.

Now, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  But we have to remind ourselves who Peter is writing to – he is writing to people exiled and scattered throughout the provinces – he is writing to people who are living for Jesus wherever they are – and for many of them they were actually aliens and strangers in the communities that they found themselves.

They were people were from, say somewhere like Jerusalem, and now found themselves as aliens and strangers in places like Pontus, Galatia, and Asia. 

Now many of you know that I am originally from Hamilton where I was born and brought up and at the age of 19, 1 week before my 20th Birthday, I moved to Inverness.  I know you’ll find this hard to believe because of my youthful looks, but I’ve actually lived in Inverness longer than I’ve lived in Hamilton.  And when I arrived in Inverness, I took some time to get to know the place because, to me, Inverness was a strange place, I was an alien, a stranger in these parts.  And as I got to know the place and the people my life and my speech slowed and I began to become more ‘Highland’.  I was speaking to a work colleague on Thursday evening who was from the village of Cleland, which is not too far from Motherwell and Wishaw, and he was amazed that I was from Hamilton – I obviously don’t come across as someone from Hamilton, whatever that means, maybe because my accent has mellowed from that central west of Scotland dialect you know by the way.

 When my cousins moved from Cumbernauld to Preston in the late 1970’s, my aunt and uncle kept their accents but my cousins who were all below the age of 10, almost immediately adopted the Lancashire accents of those around them.

Because it’s the most natural thing for us as humans to try and blend into the society and the culture that we live in. Because by nature, we don’t want to be aliens, we don’t want to be strangers.

But Peter is reminding them they are aliens and strangers in the world – not aliens and strangers in a place, but in the world. And he urges then, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against their souls.

In other words, no matter where you are folks, you need to remember that you are a whole new person.  You have received a great salvation in Jesus, you have a hope that holds the future in the present because its anchored in the past.  You are called to pursue holiness – to show love, to bring life and light!  Because you have been called out of darkness into His wonderful light.

And Peter is urging them not to go back into a lifestyle from that which they have been rescued from.  Because Peter is well aware that as they try to live in a new place, in a different part of the world, it’s the most natural thing for them to try and blend into that society, blend into that culture – when in Rome do as the Romans do type thing.

He is reminding them as As Paul reminded the Philippians “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body”

Paul is saying, and Peter is saying, conforming to society and culture around us is not the model folks – because we are chosen, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  We are now citizens of heaven and we need to reflect the standards of heaven.

Peter is telling us that we cannot afford to return to that which we have been saved from, because we are looking towards that which we have been saved to.  Our great salvation in Jesus.

And the challenge of pursuing holiness that we have been talking about over the last few weeks is based on not conforming to the standards of this world – to be different – to live differently.  In other words don’t do what your natural instinct tells you to do and conform to the society and culture you find yourself in.  

Because this society and culture with its temptations are waging war against our souls.  And we are urged to fight against that onslaught.  For the salvation of our soul is of prime importance – that’s why we’ve accepted that great salvation in Jesus, because that salvation is of prime importance; that’s why we pursue holiness, because that salvation is of prime importance.

Our citizenship, our culture and our society is heaven.  We have been bought with a price – with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without sin or blemish.  He has redeemed us for Himself and Jesus has sent us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are His temple, where He dwells, we carry His presence.  Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.  We are citizens of heaven.  Peter urges us not to be ashamed of that – not to “fit in”; but be an alien, be a stranger in this world for that is who you are, because you’re a citizen of heaven.

Peter urges us to live as citizens of heaven, so that, as he goes on to say in verse 12, we live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

The goal is the glory of God. “Live such good lives, or keep your behaviour excellent, as some versions put it, so that . . . the pagans, non-believers, might see your good deeds and glorify God.”  The challenge of our lives in living as aliens and strangers is whether our lives direct people’s attention towards the glory of God.

If we live our lives in such a way that it doesn’t point people to the glory of God, then our lives are not as they ought to be.  We become nothing more than people who conform to a culture and society that ignores God. Because we are ashamed. 

But here we have yet again, an urging, a commending, to live in a way that pursues holiness, that points to the glory of God.  Its from the time we get up in the morning till the time we go to bed at night and everything in between is to point people to the glory of God.

Notice too that the doing needs to come out of our being.  Because Peter urges us to win the war of our desires – verse 11 – before telling us to live such good lives that point to the glory of God in verse 12

Because Beautiful Conduct Springs Only from Right Desires

Verse 11 says that it is “sinful desires that wage war against the soul.” So Peter says abstain from them. Then in verse 12 Peter says we should keep our “behaviour” excellent so that people will see and give glory to God. So first he focuses on desires and then on behaviour.  This is the same pattern we saw in 1 Peter 1:14–15. “Don’t conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance, but . . . be holy in all you do.” Fight first at the level of desires and then at the level of conduct.  Out of our being comes our doing.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:25, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

In other words, it doesn’t do any good to try to shine up the conduct on the outside without changing the desires on the inside. 

Good deeds flows from good desires. As Paul put it to the Galatians – “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”

So How Does Excellent Behaviour or good deeds Point to God’s Glory?

How does verse 12 work? How do our good deeds point people to the glory of God?

The answer, I think, is given in 1 Peter 3:15 where it says “Always be ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” What they see is some external action, and what they ask about is your internal hope.

What Peter is saying here is that when people look at you, what they see expressed in your actions, is what you hope in. So they see a certain way of acting—some humble act of love (Galatians 5:6) or some righteous act of courage (Hebrews 10:34) or some self-denying act of generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)—and they notice that you must not be hoping in what people usually hope in—self-exaltation, safety, money—and they are puzzled as to where your hope is.

So they ask about your hope: where do you get your confidence, your contentment, your satisfaction when you act that way?  Especially when people think what on earth are you doing? 

For when we direct our desires to God and find hope and contentment in his mercy and power and promises, then our outward life starts to show what Peter calls “good deeds or excellent behaviour”. These behaviours point to God’s glory because they point to a stable, sure, satisfying object of desire and hope that is not of this world. The point to Jesus. 

You see by pointing to the glory of God, we see the heart of God in urging us to live this way.  Because who is glorifying God in verse 12, but the pagans who see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He visit us.

Now how can pagans glorify God on the day He visits us.  I think the answer is very simple.  They themselves come to know this great salvation in Jesus, though the lives that we lead as citizens of heaven, as aliens and strangers in this world.  For the heart of God is that none should perish, and when He returns, He desires as many as possible to glorify Him on that day.

And before Peter then launches into practical teaching about how we live as citizens of heaven as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family – he tells us, no… he encourages us, no…. he urges us, to have very strong desire for, to have a fire in our belly for living as a citizen of heaven so that others can become citizens of heaven.

As we were hearing from Ps Tim Jack at our Highland Network Leaders weekend:  on the day of Pentecost everyone had something in them – the Holy Sprit; but that was just the beginning, that was if you like a breathing in, but the rest of Acts 2 is the breathing out – the disciples breaking out of the room and into community and they spoke a language that people understood.  Our job as spirit filled believers is to engage a society that understands a language we speak by the breathing out of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what Peter is also urging.  Our citizenship in heaven, our status as aliens and strangers in this world does not mean we talk a different language that no one understand, but we speak and show a language that points people to the glory of God, that even though they see we are different, that breathing out of the Holy Spirit, causes the Holy Spirit to work in them so that they come to understand for themselves this great salvation in Jesus.

What these two verses make clear is that there are two tremendous issues in the world. They are, quite possibly, the most important issues in the world. And one of the reasons we know that we are aliens and strangers in the world is that the modern world we live in does not believe that these two issues are the main issues.

If the world believed this, the newspaper and TV and the theatres and the universities and popular music and industry mission statements and government goals would look and sound very different than they do. But in fact we live in a world that shows by its priorities and values and preoccupations and pleasures that it does not regard these two issues as paramount. In fact, they are not even on the list of the world’s priorities.

The two issues that dominate these two verses—and indeed dominate the whole New Testament—are <slide> the salvation of the human soul and the glory of God. The two great issues of the Bible are how the soul of man might not be destroyed and how the glory of God might not be belittled.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  

If someone was to ask me to describe myself, I might say that I am a 48 year old married man who is father to 3 boys. I work 4 days a week as an IT project manager and the rest of the time I work as a Pastor in a local church.

In others words – a fairly average kind of guy that fits into a middle class society of family life and work life.  Nothing special. 

And there in lies the problem.  Because in that description of myself I have conformed to how society and culture describes themselves.  People will think that’s nice, they may think that’s ‘interesting’; If I do some good deeds, they may think I’m a good guy with a big heart, but they can’t see anything that will point them to the glory of God, in other words I am belittling the glory of God in my life.

But if I started with, I am a citizen of heaven, I’m seeking to live a Godly lifestyle in this world because Jesus has saved me from destruction and given me a hope for the future that is sure. And I outwork that lifestyle as a 48 year old married man who is a father of 3 boys.  I outwork that life style as an IT project manager and as a Pastor in a local church.

Then they may think I’m weird, a bit of a fanatic, maybe an alien; but when I do good deeds, they know the reason why – they know the motivation – they know it’s because I’m seeking to glorify God, I am seeking to maximise the glory of God because God has saved me through Christ.  They will observe my lifestyle, my deeds, and if there is a fire in my belly that seeks to live to the Spirit and live as a citizen of heaven then one day, if the Lord tarries, I might have the privilege of seeing those who have observed my lifestyle, they might accept salvation in Jesus for themselves, and so another soul may be saved for the glory of God.

But we need to be unashamed of wearing the badge of being an alien and stranger in this world. We need to be unashamed of the gospel of Christ. Unashamed of declaring our faith in Him. Unashamed of having fingers pointed at us as a result. Unashamed of people thinking we are weird.  Unashamed of living to a different standard. Unashamed of having excellent behaviour. Unashamed of Jesus. Unashamed.

Because we are chosen. We are a royal priesthood. A holy nation. A people belonging to God.

It’s time to stop being a hypocrite.  It’s time to stop playing Christian.  It’s time to stop conforming to this world and this culture.  It’s time to repent from those ways and time to turn again to what Christ saved us to be, and made us to be;  It’s time to be the aliens we are and speak and live differently to this world.

Invite the scrutiny. Live lives that can stand up to such scrutiny.  Live lives that show that out of our being in Christ  comes our doing of love, life and light.

Cause them to ask us why we’re different. Why are we an alien.  And as we do, let’s be ready to give an answer and pray one day they too may become citizens of heaven. 

Amen.

21Apr/18

Stones that bring life and light

1 Peter 1v22-2v10.

The world we live in today is a very connected world in relation to the internet.  In  the last 15 years, internet growth has gone from 500 million users, which was around 7% of the world population, to over 3.5 billion users today, which is around 47% of the world population.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, has 1.86 billion users alone, with 1.23 billion of those accessing the social media site every single day.  When you think that the average Facebook user has 155 ‘friends’ that’s a lot of connected people.

I don’t know if any of you saw the BBC documentary series, Britain from above, but in that documentary, it said that in Britain alone, we make almost 1 million calls a minute over land lines, send 300,000 texts per minute, and BT alone is carrying 223 million megabytes of data per hour, which is the equivalent of accessing half a million web pages per second.   It is said that Data, and connectivity, is the foundation of our new economy.  Without it, it would not just be teenagers that would be at a loss for what to do.

And this morning, we are going to look at this subject of connectivity, but not connectivity in relation to the internet and data, but connectivity as God describes it.  

 

Last time we looked in 1 Peter, we looked at the subject of the pursuit of holiness because we are instructed to ‘Be holy as He is holy’ and we described our ability to do that based on 2 things – our passion for the Word of God and our passion for putting it into practice, in a nutshell, knowing Jesus more and more and obeying what He says out of love for Him.  Because the call to holiness is a call to love – a love relationship with Jesus, and one of the outcomes of that is that we love each other sincerely.  We love because He first loved us.

And the illustration that we have in 1 Peter chapter 2 is that of a spiritual house – which most people would describe as the church – made up of living stones – which most people would describe as those belonging to Jesus.  Jesus Himself is referred to as the living Stone and as the cornerstone, in this spiritual house from which all the living stones take their bearing.

And it would seem that Peter is changing the subject of having a sincere love for one another, which is an outcome of a pursuit of holiness, to talking about church, but he’s not changed the subject, he’s still talking about a pursuit of holiness and he’s talking about it in the church and  there are 2 things that Peter brings out as outcomes, and that is life and light. And the display of life and light is an expression of a pursuit of holiness is based on that sincere love we have for each other.

And these are the 2 things that I want to look at this morning – Life and Light.   But before we get into that, there is something very important we need to look at first.

Verse 4 begin, ‘As you come to Him, the Living Stone’.   Isn’t it wonderful that after the challenge of last time to have a sincere love for each other, deeply from the heart, to put away malice and deceit and to crave that pursuit of holiness as we grow up in our salvation; Isn’t it wonderful that Peter reminds us, before he launches into the next section, to come to Jesus.

We come to Jesus…   It’s almost like Peter knows our reaction to the challenge to that pursuit of holiness; that challenge to love.   To love Him in getting to know Him more; to love Him through obedience to Him; to love one another deeply from the heart for that is His standard of holiness that He calls us to live by.   It’s almost like Peter knows that we read those words and we look at the holes in our holiness and we say. “Oh Lord, help us we pray.  Help us to be more like you Lord” for as Peter said himself where else can we go but to you Lord and so he says, ‘As you come to Him, the living Stone.’

Ah yes, how wonderful it is to come to Jesus.  For what do we find when we come to Jesus, especially when we feel inadequate against the standard He sets and the challenge He places before each one of us.

When we come to Jesus, He does not say – check out the holes in your holiness – there’s this and that, and woah! look at the size of that one.  He does not do that.  He does not even come boasting about how holy He is.   When we come to Him, when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us and He says – hey, look at who you are in me – look at what I’ve done for you already.

And as we have read and as we read on, we discover that He is our saviour – the one chosen by God and precious to Him because He is the one that has purchased for us this great salvation.  He is the one that brings us a hope to shout about because it is a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.  We discover that in Jesus, He is cornerstone for our lives. Jesus is the rock and foundation for our hope, the basis of our faith.   He is the one from whom we gain life.   We find that when we trust in Him, we will never be put to shame. We discover we are chosen, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, we are a people belonging to God.  We discover that we have received mercy

We have not just been forgiven.  We have become a whole new person. 

No longer worthless, inadequate, helpless or hopeless.  But deeply significant and special.

No longer rejected, unloved or dirty.  But completely accepted. 

No longer guilty, unprotected, alone or abandoned.  But  totally secure.

And after you come to Him, the Living Stone, and you receive all those truths of who you are in Christ, you’re singing…. you’re singing with joy.  The Lord builds us up when we come to Him so that outcome is, as verse 9 says, so that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light!

We could spend so much more time on this subject.  It’s so important to remember that when we come to Him, the Living Stone, we need to allow His pure, holy, unconditional love for us to speak truth to us regarding what He thinks of us.  How much he values us.  How much He loves us.

Because that love is the foundation of pursuing holiness, and its the foundation of the outcomes of holiness: Loving each other as we highlighted last time, and it’s the basis of bringing or producing life and light. 

Bringing Life

So how does who we are in Christ, bring life.

Well very simply, when we come to Him the Living Stone, our life, comes from Christ.  He is the Living Stone – chosen by God and precious to Him, so we also are like living stones – verse 5 – which means we too have been chosen by God and are precious to Him.  And the life He is giving us is building us into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Now when you think of a spiritual house in the context of being a living stone, we may imagine it like how houses are built.  There are bricks and all of them fit into place in a uniform manner all taking their bearing from the cornerstone.  All working together to produce the structure. But that would mean we are all the same.  But we are not.

Yes, God has made us each one of us significant, accepted and secure in Christ, and He has also made us unique.   So maybe it’s more like a stone that’s not uniform – a bit like stones you find in a dry stone dyke.  All different shapes and sizes that together make up something of beauty.

But I don’t think it’s like that either, because those stones don’t move which means they are not living.

Let me explain.  The image I have is a house where all the stones that make up the house are continually moving because all the stones are living.  If you like the house looks like it’s walls are continually moving and changing as the stones in them keep changing position in the wall.  That’s because when one living stone needs support in some way, there are other stones that move from somewhere else in the structure to come beside it or beneath it.  When one living stone needs help, there are other stones that come along side it.   So you have this idea of the stones making up the spiritual house continually moving, because to be living means that you have eyes that see, feet that move, ears that hear, mouths that speak, hands that serve. 

You might think that it’s impossible for that dynamic fluid structure can stand, but remember the stones get their life from the living stone who is the cornerstone who does not change, and his life is resurrected life and His life that He has given us is his Holy Spirit within us. So What is impossible with man is possible with God

Do you get the picture. That can’t happen if each living stone is in a specific place like in a dry stone dyke.  this is where they are and they can’t move away from that spot type thinking.  That type of thinking generates a mind set of things not being my ministry or calling so I won’t get involved. That’s someone else’s job.  It generates a mind set that says, the worship leader is up there, but the songs he or she has picked have no impact on me so why should I get involved. It says that my prayers are not as good as someone else’s so I won’t bother going to the prayer meeting.

But we, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  We cannot do that without the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The spiritual house we are being built into is the temple of God. We, the church, are the temple of the Holy Spirit, it’s a place where God dwells.  We are being built into that spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.  In other words, we are not merely the passive structure where God dwells; we are also the active participants in worship and we know worship is a lifestyle not just singing of songs.  We are active participants in worship And not just participants, but a special kind of participant, the priests. All of us.  All of us are part of this dynamic body ministry.  And it’s a body ministry. 

We all are the priests of this new spiritual house, and our privilege now as priests is to draw near to God with spiritual sacrifices.   That’s the goal here – to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus. And if that’s the goal, it must be very important.  So what are these spiritual sacrifices?

A few things very briefly, 

Our Bodies

In Romans 12:1 Paul says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual act of worship. That means, I think, that everything we do with our body is to be done as an act of worship to God. That’s why worship is a lifestyle. Whether we eat, or drink, or hammer nails, or drive a car, or make a meal, or program a computer, or read a book, or swim 10 lengths, or mend a shirt—whatever we do with our body, do to the glory of God. 

Praise and Thanks

Hebrews 13:15 says, “Continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name.” It might include singing or speaking words of praise. So the spiritual sacrifices are the praises and thanks of God’s people alone and in group worship.

Acts of Love

Or it might include acts of love like giving and sharing. For example, in Philippians 4:18 Paul receives gifts of support from the Philippian church and says, “I received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” 

And in Hebrews 13:16 it says, “Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

So the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and I’ve only picked out a few, there are more, are the deeds we do, the words we speak, the songs we sing—when we do them spiritually. That is, when we do them in reliance on the power of the Spirit, according to the will of the Spirit, and for a manifestation of the Spirit—which is a manifestation of Christ. When we seek to be like Jesus. To be holy as he is holy. 

It’s dynamic, As Paul says to the Galatians in chapter 5v13 – you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another in love.

An outcome of a pursuit of holiness is love, and it’s life – life in the Spirit.  Serving one another – being living stones that listen, that see, that hear, and then move and serve other living stones.  The stones in the spiritual house are living, because they take their source from the living Stone Christ Jesus – who went to where people were, who taught people, who healed people, who prayed for people, who gave practical help to people, who served people by washing their feet – nothing was beneath him.  Who obeyed the will of the Father, even to death on a cross.   That was His life – and that’s the life He gives us.

For we are that spiritual house, we are that holy priesthood.  As verse 9 says – you are a chosen people, you are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation, you are a people belonging to God.  Once we were not a people, now we are the people of God. Once we had not received mercy; now we have received mercy.  This is what we are called to be folks because this is who we are.

As a holy priesthood This means that we all have access to God through Jesus Christ. We do not take our sacrifice to the priest and watch while he or she takes it to the altar or to the tent of meeting with God. We all are called by God to approach the altar and the throne, and to make our own personal sacrifice in personal life and in corporate church life.  To see, hear, speak act and move as the Spirit directs. To pursue holiness – we show sincere love for each other, by showing love in action, by showing life. And He came to give life and life in abundance!

And that combination of love and life – give light.

Bringing Light

Because who we are in Christ, that love that we show, and that life that we demonstrate is so that we can declare the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify Your Father in heaven.

Imagine the lights of Britain the hour before dawn.  Static.  Piercing the darkness.   But they are not moving.  They are doing their job but they are stuck in their place. They are indeed shining a light but it’s not life.

Now imagine the telephone network of Britain coming alive on a normal working day.  These are connections happening as calls are being made   It’s dynamic, it’s living, it’s continually changing.  it brings light and its life, life like a fire that spreads as connections are made. 

And this is a very simple illustration how our life as living stones gives light.  This is how who we are in Christ, his spirit in us, gives us the confidence to live as He lived, to love as He loved, to be holy as He is holy. Not just to stand in our spot giving light, this is me in my part, that’s you in you part, but to move and show that life with Jesus is like a fire within us spreading and igniting others, and so our light shines before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

Conclusion

We live in a very connected world.  It caters for a mentality that says you can connect to anyone anywhere in the world without having to move from your armchair. 

And there is a danger that kind of mentality comes into the church.  My role in this spiritual house is  such and such. Someone else does this and someone else does that.  I’ll just send a message to that person and tell them to do such and such because that’s their ministry and not mine.

That’s not what it means to be a living stone.  We need to get off our armchair and pursue that friendship with Jesus that seeks to know Him more, that seeks to obey Him out of love, that seeks to be that spiritual house, where there is love, life and light.  That means we have to not only hear, see and speak – we have to move and act and serve.  It’s dynamic – it changes all the time depending on the need and the leading of the Spirit – but it’s our life of worship as a spiritual house that glorifies Christ.

Is our lifestyle of worship spiritual?  Do we worship in spirit and in truth.  Are the sacrifices we offer spiritual sacrifices?   If they are not, it is not acceptable to God. If it is, he will accept it, not because it’s perfect—it never will be in this age—much less because it’s refined or well-crafted, but because we offer those spiritual sacrifices “through Jesus Christ.”

Spiritual sacrifices are sacrifices from Christ and through Christ and for Christ. They get their power from the Spirit of Christ, they get their content from the Word of Christ, and they have their goal in the glory of Christ. And they flow only from a heart devoted to his power and his Word and his glory.  And that is the only kind of worship God accepts.  It’s a pursuit of holiness.

Maybe this morning you’re in that place of discouragement, in that place of feeling down or low, in that place of thinking this is all too much for me to cope with. It’s all very serious and I do t think I can do it.  Then do what Peter says in verse 4, come to Jesus.  Come to The living stone.  Let Him tell you what He thinks of you.  

How much He loves you. 

How you are His child.  

How you belong to Him.  

How you are a saint, a holy one. 

How you have direct access to Him.  

How you are a citizen of heaven.  

How you have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.  

How you are free from any charges against you.  

How you are assured that all things work together for good.  

How you are seated with Christ in heavenly places. 

How you are His workmanship. 

How you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you

Let who you are in Christ give you cause for praise to Jesus.

And let who you are in Christ, show you that your life comes from Christ.   He is the Living Stone.  He is the Living Water. He is the Living Word. The common expression there is that He is the Living one.  The Stone, Water, Word – these are all just expressions of His life to us. 

And to be a like a living stone, as He is the living Stone, tells me that we are build and support one another.  An expression of loving one another deeply from the heart.  That life of connectivity one with the other through Jesus Christ is true life.  It’s life that gives light.   Is life that proclaims from the rooftops that we have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light.   And his light, His life, His love is so very wonderful. 

So my encouragement and my challenge this morning is get involved.   Get involved as a living stone.  Get involved in the prayer meetings, get involved in bible study, get involved in expressing practical support to each other, get involved in welcome at the door, get involved in praying with each other, get involved meeting and encouraging one another, get involved in worshipping, in serving.  get involved.  Get involved in body ministry. And if you’ve got a heart for something we’re not doing come and talk to the eldership.  Get involved so we have that continually moving dynamic spiritual house led by the spirit where as a holy priesthood together we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Reaching. Involving. Equipping. Releasing. 

We can only do this through Jesus Christ, that’s why it’s so important to come to Him, the living One, the cornerstone from where we all take our bearing and our life.   For once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.  We are a chosen people. We are a royal priesthood.  We are a holy nation. We are God’s special possession, for we have received mercy and we desire to declare the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. 

Let’s be living stones that bring love, life and light.

Amen.

20Apr/18

Are you wholly holy? (Part 2)

1 Peter 1v22 – 1 Peter 2v3

Last time we looked at verses 13-21, and we pulled out from that passage the call to action to be holy, to be people that are determined to live to the standards of God and I’d like to expand on that pursuit of holiness 

The American TV sitcom “Friends” centred around the lives of 6 people in their 20s-30s living in Manhattan and it had a title sequence with a song by The Rembrandts called “I’ll be there for you”

When we think of friendship, we tend to think of people that are there for us through thick and thin.  

Someone once said, that friends give you a shoulder to cry on. But best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person that made you cry.

You may define friendship as being about spending time with people you like, whose company you enjoy.

There is the story of 3 best friends stuck on a desert island and they discover a magic lamp containing a genie who grants them each 1 wish.  The first one says he misses his family and wishes he was back home. Poof! gone.  The second one says the same. Poof! gone. The third one looks round and says I miss my best buddies, I wish they were here with me.

Now when it comes to holiness, we tend not to think of it in the context of friendship, but I want to suggest, from the passage we read earlier that the pursuit of holiness is very much about friendship because the call to holiness is a call to love.  And the call to love is based on the word of God, which contains the standard of God, which is holiness.

So let’s just briefly remind ourselves of that standard of holiness.  What is God’s holiness? 

Well we can define it as freedom from all sin and complete purity.

We say that a garment is clean when it is free from all dirt or spots. We say that gold is pure when all the dross has been refined from it. We say that an object it perfect when it has no flaw whatsoever in it. This is how we should think when we consider the holiness of God.

1 John 5 says “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  John is telling us that God has no darkness whatsoever. He is absolutely pure. He is absolutely free of every defect. He has no blemishes. He character contains no faults. He is completely free of all sin. His thoughts and His actions are holy. Everything about Him is pure. Everything about Him is Holy.

So that’s what, that’s who, holiness is, but when it comes to living a life of holiness, there are two big theological words that are used to describe this.  Justification and Sanctification.

Justification is ‘just as if I had never sinned’.  It’s the moment when we accept Christ into our lives and He forgives us and He declares us to be righteous – the demands of the law for our sin have been met through the death of Jesus on the cross.  Jesus makes us holy.  That’s our position in Christ, because Christ is holy and we are in Christ.  That’s our standing before God. Hallelujah.  But the work of Jesus on the cross did not stop there

J.C.Ryle, a 19th century bishop of Liverpool said “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world… Jesus is a complete Saviour.  He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, He does more, He breaks it!”.  

He breaks the power of sin in our daily lives.  Alistair Begg said that while sin may remain it no longer reigns.  Jesus has broken the power of sin in our lives so we can overcome it. Hallelujah, when Jesus comes into our lives and makes us born again by His spirit we are no longer slaves to sin.

Jesus not only justifies – He sanctifies which basically means we are a work in progress, but that is not an excuse to sin for we can know the power of Jesus in us to break the power of sin in our lives day by day making us more and more like Him – as Paul writes we are changed from one degree of glory to the next – we are on a journey to meet the standard of holiness, which remember we defined as freedom from all sin and complete purity.  

As Paul writes to the Philippians – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

And we press on to holiness because that’s what Christ has taken hold of us for

Justification means blotting out what was against me: the act of a moment.  Sanctification is a process that starts when we accept Jesus and ends when we see Christ.

Because we are to BE holy, as He is holy, but we cannot instantly become like Jesus.  It takes time, it’s a process.  In Genesis we read that God made man in His image. But sin entered and broke that image, so through Christ, God is restoring broken images to be fit for His purpose and for His glory.  

Remember I said the call to holiness is a call to love.  And the call to love is based on the word of God, who is Jesus – He is our standard, and His standard is holiness.  So let’s look at how the word of God helps us chip away those things in our lives, and how the power of sin that He has broken allows us to become more like Him.

And to do this, I’d like to ask 1 question – how passionate are you about living la life of holiness.

The answer to that question, I would suggest is based on 2 things

  1. Your passion for the word of God
  2. Your passion for putting it into practice

So first of all, our passion for the word of God

The passage we read is very much about the word of God.   In verse 22, it talks about obeying the truth; in verse 23 it talks about us being born again through the living and enduring word of God; in verse 25 it talks about the word of the Lord standing forever and this is the word that was preached to us; In 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 2 it talks about craving pure spiritual milk; in verse 3 it talks about tasting that the Lord is good.

So when we come to the word of God there is a lot there and we have to get beyond just reading the bible to knowing the author.  Remember that I said at the outset that when it comes to holiness, we tend not to think of it in the context of friendship, but having a passion for the word of God is very much about friendship.  Our friendship to Jesus.

Jesus’ friendship to us is that He knows us, I mean really knows us; because He does not look on  the outside but looks at the heart and He sees what is in our hearts, and yet He still moves towards us – because of His love, because He is holy.

But friendship is a two way thing, so we need to get to know Jesus – if we class Him as our friend. And the way we do that is through reading the bible, but not just reading it because we have to, we read it because we want to get to know our friend Jesus more and more.  Bible reading is meant to deepen our personal relationship with Christ.

John Piper says, “I have a burden for my people right now, just like I do for myself, that we get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean ‘get around’ Bible verses, but ‘through’ Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him. I want to count Him more to be desired than all other things — wife, husband, children, success in career, leisure, vacations, health, food, sex, money. He’s more precious.”

Paul put it this way – “ … I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.  He wanted to know Christ, and Peter encourages us to do the same, because knowing Jesus, knowing His holiness and what we are to strive towards, is a key to living in holiness. Is a key to be Holy.

Jesus wants us to know Him more – He prayed in John 17 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you would protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.”

The only way we can pursue holiness is through the truth, Jesus is the truth; He is the living word of God.

One of the great things about friendship is getting to know people – you find out this and you find out that, there are things that you discover all the time that you did not know about each other.  And so it is with the Lord.

Peter tells us to crave the word – let His word be our milk and food – let it be something we simply cannot do without – we simply cannot do without Jesus – of all the things that stand the test of time, nothing can compare to the word of the Lord which stands for ever.   Nothing compares to Jesus. So whatever we hear, whatever we read, nothing, can compare to the word of the Lord, so let’s be people that don’t settle for second best, but desire the best, desire His word, desire Jesus, and the surpassing greatness of knowing him, above all.

The second thing we need to consider is our passion for putting the word into practice.   In effect obedience.  Obedience to the word of God.  We just can’t get away from that one. Peter mentions obedience in verse 2 of chapter 1, then again in v14 and again in v22

Neil Marten MP served as the conservative MP for Banbury from 1959 to 1983. Once he was giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Lord Hailsham recognized Neil Marten among the group and cried, “Neil!” Not daring to question or disobey the “command,” the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!

Maybe that’s how we view obedience – just blind obedience.  Someone above us says jump and we say how high….But obedience is not just about doing as you are told. Obedience that just does as you are told is more like an employer / employee relationship; more like a master / servant relationship, maybe for some more like a husband/wife relationship, but Jesus longs for us to put into practice what he says because of love – He says if you love me, you will obey my commands.  

When the Israelites failed to obey and enter Canaan, they basically showed they did not love God and spent the rest of their lives wandering aimlessly. Obedience out of our love for Jesus is so important, because if we love Him we will obey His commands.

There are some things that only certain people can get away with saying.  There are some truths about ourselves that we can only take from certain people.  These people are true friends – as the book of Proverbs says – faithful are the wounds of a friend.  These are the people that want what is best for us, who have our best interests at heart, because we know them and because they know us.

So if we love Jesus, if we value His friendship, then when He challenges us through his word about things in our life that are nor right, then we should be able to take it, because we know He has our best interests at heart, because we know Him. Hebrews 12v10 says that our fathers disciplines us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his … holiness.    

Jesus speaks truth to us, challenging us on things not right in our lives but He’s not leaving us on our own to live this life of holiness, He’s helping us – if you like He’s at the top of a cliff, his love is round our waist and while we are hanging on hoping we don’t fall, His love has us secure and, He is pulling us up telling us how to climb.   And because we know Him, we trust Him. Because we love Him, we obey Him. We climb no matter how difficult it is for us, no matter how challenging this next bit is. Because we desire to be like Him, to be where He is, we press on towards the goal through obedience to the word of Jesus.

Maybe you look around and think everyone is way more holier that you,  I mean they may have holes but I have chasms.  How am I ever going to get there. I mean the holes in my holiness are so huge I don’t know where to start.

Well thankfully the Lord tells us.  We have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable.  The seed of a man allows him to be fruitful and multiply, but in time those perish and die; but the seed of the Lord when we were born again by the spirit of God is imperishable.  That means because that imperishable seed is from God, it contains the means by which we can be free from sin and completely pure, we know the power of God in our lives right now that break the power of sin, because Jesus is a complete saviour. One day we will be in heaven where there is no sin and where everything is completely holy.  But while we are on this earth we can sow the seed of His word knowing that the holes in our holiness can get smaller, as we seek to know Him more and put into practice what he tells us.

We can sow to living in holiness and that seed will not perish. From wherever we are starting from this morning, we can live to holiness and BE Holy as He is holy.  It’s not an instant fix but as we sow that seed of holiness in our lives, it grows, it develops, it gets stronger, it becomes fruitful and it multiplies because it is born out of a relationship of love, an intimate friendship, with Jesus who is cheering us on, like a best friend cheers us us; and even if we slip up, he picks us up and dusts us down and sets our feet back onto solid ground so that we can run towards him again. Oh the wonders of his grace to us!

One of the outcomes of that pursuit of holiness is not about saying look at how holy I am.  Paul says to the Corinthians if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall.  An outcome of becoming more like Jesus is expressed in how we love others. 

Verse 22 of 1 Peter says that an outcome of living in holiness is that we will have sincere love for our brothers and sisters, loving one another deeply from the heart.  You know we can say that Jesus and I are like that (fingers together).   We can have a passion for knowing Him, but if we fail to love one another deeply from the heart, then there is a hole in our holiness.  

It’s interesting that Peter tells us therefore to get rid of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.  Because these are the things that are so often in our relationships with each other.   When we get upset or offended, this is how we react.  We talk behind people’s back, we gossip, we are not truthful with each other – These are things that should not be evident in our relationships with one another, so the evidence of our holiness is outworked in how we are with each other.  In other words as 1 Peter 2v2 says we grow up, we grow up, in our salvation the more we know Christ, the more we put his word into practice. 

The outcome of holiness is to like Jesus and Jesus does not speak malice or deceit to us; He is not hypocritical; He does not envy or slander us.  He loves us deeply from the heart.  And that is the seed He has planted in our hearts when we were born again, so that is the seed that should be sown towards others – for the seed is within itself. We love because He first loved us. 

Conclusion

As we said last time, God demands for us to do more than acknowledge His holiness. He says: “BE holy, for I am holy.”  We are to strive to “BE holy”. We are to pursue holiness.

So often in our lives we look at Jesus and rejoice that we have a friend in Jesus.  He’s always there for us.  We can come to Him; we can learn from Him; He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.  He is the one we can come to with all our griefs and pains to bear – what a friend we have in Jesus.

Scott Sauls in his book about iron sharpens iron friendships says the true test of friendship is not that you like someone or enjoy their company, he says the true test is when they offend you and you move towards them instead of away from them.  And we offend Jesus, we hurt Jesus by sinning, but because He is holy, because He does not speak malice or deceit to us etc. Because He loves us deeply from the heart. He moves towards us, not away from us.  He decides to stay – He will never leave or forsake us – such is His love for us, because He is holy.

So when when the Lord points out something in our lives that he wants to challenge, or correct.  When he brings in that discipline, do we walk towards him. Do we decide to stay, because that is the true test of our friendship with Jesus. 

How passionate are you and I to live a life of holiness?   How passionate are you and I be more like Jesus? What passion do we have for the word of God, to know Jesus more and more.  What passion do we have for putting what He says, however difficult it is for us to hear, into practice, because of our love for Him.

Are you wholly holy, or is there are hole in your holiness.

Jerry Bridges in his book, the pursuit of holiness, says that we could not take one step in the pursuit of holiness if God in his grace had not first delivered us from the dominion of sin and brought us into Union with His risen son. Salvation is by grace and sanctification is by grace.

We don’t deserve this privilege of experiencing something of his glory while here on earth. But Jesus broke the power of sin on the cross and he gives us the know how of how to live in that power. He not only justifies, but he sanctifies until one day we will see him in glory. What a privilege we have.

1 Peter 1v25, this is the word that was preached to you.

This is the Word of God that has indeed been preached to us. Over and over.  Again and again. Let’s have a passion for His word, a passion for putting it into practice. A passion for pursuing holiness. A passion for Jesus.  He has shown how much He loves us, let’s show how much we love Him. 

Amen.

20Apr/18

Are you wholly holy? (Part 1)

1 Peter 1v13-21

Now often when we think of someone who is Holy, we think of the three persons of the Trinity – the holiness of the Father, Son and Spirit.   It’s something way up there beyond us.  Maybe we think of the saints of old, the one’s that we see who have their heads in a yellow dome as they are depicted in a painting or in a stained glass window.

When I was looking for a video clip to use last Sunday evening when we we talking about evangelism, I came across a video clip promoting the ‘christian bubble’.  The advertising slogan was – are you tired of having to avoid all the sinners you come in contact with every day?  Are you disgusted by all the non-christians around you?  If only there was something that could keep the unclean heathens away from you… and what it was as a product called – the christian bubble -and it was a product like a big ballon or ball that you then put it over your head.  The video said that it allowed christians to ignore the world around them and live in their own world of holiness.  It was specially designed to deflect the sights, sounds and smells of a world  that they are simply too good for.  It was poking fun…

But Maybe that’s your view of holiness, being separate from the world completely.  After all the phrase to be holy, means to be set apart. 

Maybe you think holiness is walking round with a halo round your head.  I’m not sure if the phrase ‘holy joe’ is still used, but there was a time that it was used by those who perceived Christians to be the eternal party pooper or the judgemental person telling everyone that what they are doing is wrong.

There are lots of perceptions about what it means to be holy. 

So far, in 1 Peter 1 we have have been talking about battles and blessings, how we will need the blessing of abundant grace and peace from Jesus to help us through battles that we face in life.  We talked about the great salvation in Jesus, accomplished through His death and resurrection, and the hope that gives us when we accept Jesus as Saviour, and how that hope in Jesus, can see us through the suffering and grief and trials of many kinds that we face.

And now as we come into verse 13, this word, ‘therefore’ appears – I’m sure you all know the cliche that says where you see the word therefore in the bible you have ask what is it there for.

And verse 13 tells us very clearly what it is there for – minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming

In other words there is something that we have to do.  And that is clearly articulated by Peter in verses 14-16 when he says, like obedient children to God, be holy as God is holy.  Don’t be conformed to evil desires like you used to have, but live your lives as those that are holy, to be holy as God is holy. 

Eh, ok….. how am I supposed to do that?

1 Samuel 2v2 says  “There is no one, no one, holy like the LORD..”

God’s holiness is like way up there… I’m like down here…. God is like, perfect, I am like, not perfect.  How on earth am I supposed to reach that standard after all the bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, so what’s the point in even trying.

But if that is our view point then we miss the point of what Peter is encouraging us do.  

Ok, we have battles and blessings, we have suffering now and glory to follow.  The hope that Jesus gives through this great salvation that we have received through trusting in Him, helps me  through through trials, but Peter is also encouraging us to live as those who want to receive the grace to be brought to us when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming

You know for those of us who have accepted Jesus as saviour, we acknowledge that we were not good enough.  We could not meet the standard of God, we were sinners who fell short, but God showed his love to us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us, and when we repent and turn to Christ and put our trust in his redeeming work, believing He paid the price for our sin, then we know the grace of the Lord Jesus.  We know God riches of salvation achieved for us at Christ’s expense.  We know the favour of God, of forgiven sin, of being made new, of being a child of God, not because we deserved it, but because we did not deserve it – that’s what grace is – being given what we don’t deserve and we glory in it. We glory in the Cross. Hallelujah for the cross. 

And as those of us who have accepted Jesus as saviour, we have received grace.  But Peter here is telling us – verse 13 – that there is a grace to be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed.  There is something else to be given to us that we don’t deserve.  That inheritance, that can never spoil or perish or fade, kept in heaven for us, the goal of our faith in Jesus;  through the battles and suffering and the blessings of this life, this hope what we have that results in praise, glory and honour. There is a grace that is still to be given to us that we do not deserve, but will be give to us when Jesus Christ is revealed.

And that hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past, Peter says, ought to motivate us to living to God’s standards.  And there are two reasons he gives to motivate us.  The first one is judgement. Ooo scarey….

Verse 17 says, since we call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers, here, in reverent fear.

Now the reality and finality of God’s judgement are often affirmed.  We are taught that Christ will be Judge on that day –  Acts 10v42 says that Jesus is the one that God appointed judge of the living and the dead; Romans 2v16 says God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ.  Christ will be Judge on that day.

And at the same time as affirming the reality of Gods judgement, we are also told, as those who have accepted God’s great salvation, that God’s verdict on us has already been pronounced; in Christ we are justified – just as if I had never sinned; we have passed from death to life. The Judge will be our Saviour – Romans 8v33-34 – who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for, who?  for us!

God’s final judgement will glorify his justice; he will pronounce for all those who have received this great salvation in Jesus the satisfaction of Christ’s death and the merit of His perfect obedience.

And this is the second motivational factor Peter gives to be holy as God is holy because it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that we were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to us, but with the precious blood of Jesus, a lamb without blemish or defect.   He, Jesus, was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for us.  For our sake!  Because it is through Him that we believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him. It is because of Him, because of Jesus, that our our faith and our hope are in God.

There is a judgement but there is also a salvation, so does that mean the salvation cancels out the judgement?  No it does not..

But while have our faith and hope in God, Peter says in verse 15 that we are to live as strangers, here on this earth, in reverent fear of God because on that day of judgement, as those who know Gods great salvation, the faithfulness of the Lord’s people will also be displayed, not as the basis of their acceptance, but to show the reality of their faith in their Saviour, and there are warnings in scripture regarding those who are unfaithful.  Matthew 7v21 says that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter he kingdom of heaven, but, listen, only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’

1 Corinthians talks about the judgement seat of Christ – we are not judged for our sins, for we are justified in Christ, but we judged – Eric Parker put it like this – how have we walked, how have we run, what have we thought, said and done, and if those things were not the evidence of living faithfully to God’s standards then those things will be burned up and if it is burned up, scripture says he will suffer loss; yes saved; but only as one escaping the fire. That’s on the negative side, but on the positive side heavenly reward will, will be proportionate to the faithfulness of God’s people living in this world knowing that they are in this world but not of it, whose hope are in Jesus, whose lives shows the reality of their faith in Jesus.

We have to live to the standards of God because our hope is in God, that’s where our faith is, it’s in God, and while there is a grace yet to be given to us that we do not deserve because of Gods great salvation in Jesus, there is also a judgement to come that we do deserve either positively or negatively, and our judge is Jesus.

Jesus gave His all for us – his all – everything.  Are we willing to give our all to live to his standards.  To be holy as He is holy.

God is Holy and because He is holy we must be holy, for we are His people – we need to be identifiable as His people, and so I say again because of this great salvation in Jesus, because we have a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past, because we set our hope on a grace to be given us when Jesus Christ is revealed, because He gave His all for us, because there is a judgement to come that will reward living faithfully for Him, are we motivated, will we show the reality of faith in our Saviour, are we willing to give our all and live to God’s standards – To be holy as He is holy.

And there two things that Peter tells us are required of us right at the outset to achieve this.

And the first one is we have to prepare our minds for action, or have minds that are alert.  Literally, gird up the loins of your mind.  This girding up of loins describes what a man wearing a long robe had to do had to do if he had to go into action – gather the garment up between his legs and tuck it into his belt.

There are a couple of examples in the old testament of this – When the nation of Israel were about to be rescued from their slavery in Egypt, they were told to eat the Passover, with your cloak tucked into your belt – be ready to move – be ready for the journey ahead.

After the experience on Mount Carmel, Elijah knew heavy rain was coming, so he prayed, and asked his servant to look towards the sea – he kept praying, he kept asking for his servant to look – seven times until a cloud as small as a man’s hand rose from the sea, and Elijah tucked his cloak into his belt and ran – Jeremiah at the start of his ministry was told by God to get ready! 

Peter is encouraging us to get ready! Get ready for action – get ready to move.  This faith, this hope, needs to be outworked – we are on a journey to glory, we are on a mission to go where Jesus calls us to go and on a mission to say what Jesus wants us to say because as I shared last Sunday night, we are ambassadors of Jesus on this earth and we not only represent Him where we are, but we also promote Him.  Our hope is in Jesus and we need to be ready to show the reality of faith in our saviour – in our sufferings, in our battles and in our blessings.

Are you ready?  Are you ready ready ready?  Do you hear that call of the Saviour that says, ok you’ve got this great salvation, you have this hope, now get on your marks, get set…..  are you ready for living to a new standard – not one you used to live by, not one this society says you need to live by, not a standard that you think a Christian should live by, or a church expects you to live by, but a standard that your Saviour, your hope, your faith, calls you to live by.  Are you ready! 

How does a world-class sprinter deal with the drama of a big sprint showdown?

It might sometimes be over in less than 10 seconds. That doesn’t mean it happens by accident – they think about the race – how they want their start to be, how the execution of the rest will be.  They get focused. 

They are ready with a towel – a pair of running spikes

They get their fuel, their energy – water, sports drink and a few sweets for the sugar burst.

15 minutes before the gun goes, they will go down to the track and start some warm-up. They do some drills, some strides and then some mental preparation.

They get nervous before the race, everyone does.  They say it’s good for you. You’ve got to have a little bit of that you get you in the right state to race.

Called to the line by the starter, on the blocks they don’t try to think of anything apart from just run. Just run to the line.

Are you ready?  Am I ready?  Have we prepared our minds for action.

Have we got before our Saviour and brought before Him our race today. Have we got focused.  Have we got our fuel – have we read from His word, got our daily bread, have we drunk from his fountain of his love,  asked Him to fill us with His Spirit. 

Have we warmed up – have we worshipped him, prayed about what’s ahead today

Are we nervous about what is ahead – good – means we need to depend on Him

So we’re called to the starting line.  Are we ready?  Are we ready to show the reality of our faith in Jesus today.

The second things we need to have is to be fully sober, or sober minded as some versions put it

In Luke 12, Jesus tells the story about being servants being ready for their master coming. He says that those who say to themselves, oh well, he’s taking a long time to come back, so let’s just eat, drink and be merry and live in the now will miss out.

And maybe Peter is thinking of this when we writes  these words in verse 13 to be fully sober because Jesus was contrasting the watchful expectancy of a faithful servant with drunken indifference to the return of the Lord.  Drunkenness is a refuge for those who have no hope, but we have a hope in Jesus.  Being sober minded means having our minds alert to the voice of Jesus.

Peter is saying there is marked difference from what we were because we  know this great salvation, through knowing Jesus – drunken-ness is a picture of what people in this world revel in – I hear so often in the office about a great night out someone had where much alcohol was consumed.  A great night can’t be had without getting drunk – what a shame that is. But we revel in Jesus – in His great salvation.

Again Peter is calling us not only to be ready, but to have an attitude that says – I’m living for Jesus, and it’s not a joyless gloom, it’s a living hope expressed as we live out the reality of our faith in Jesus with an alert wisdom that seizes the opportunities to represent Him and promote Him. In other words have an attitude that is ready to go. Ready to live for Him.

Conclusion

Are you wholly holy? In other words are you fully holy, or is there a hole in your holiness.  We will delve a little bit deeper into that next time but for now, there is a call to action, there is a call to determine that you and I are going to live to God’s standards – to be holy as God is holy. 

To be “holy” means that we are, first of all, “set apart for honorable use.”   The Lord took the initiative to pull us out of our former lifestyles. He saved us, cleansed us, and set us apart for righteousness. He has made us holy, that’s our position in Christ.

However, the pursuit of holiness does not end when we come to Christ.

In fact, it just begins! Yes there is a positional holiness that we inherit when we are in Christ but there is also a practical holiness which we must actively pursue. God expects us to cultivate a lifestyle of holiness – to be holy as he is holy – and that’s what Peter is promoting in the verses we read this morning and encourages us to live our lives for God here with a reverence for Him because he’s saved us through his son Jesus and he will judge us for how we have lived for him.

God’s ultimate desire for His people is that we be holy—conformed into the image of His Son, Jesus. Holiness is the will of God for our lives.  It’s living for Jesus to become like Jesus.

Are you determined to live for Jesus.  Are you determined to be wholly holy, to be fully holy.  Its not a suggestion, it’s not a optional extra – it’s actually a command, it’s a requirement.  But it’s a requirement that I gladly accept because my hope is in Jesus and my faith is in Jesus, so I want to live for Jesus.

Lord help us to people that prepare our minds for action every day, to be people that are sober minded – living in the reality of a hope in You that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.  Help us Lord to be children of obedience that seek your will; to live by your standards, and help be ready to serve you as your ambassadors, ready for your voice, your call to go and represent you and promote you.

Lord help us to be good servants, faithful servants so that we will know the well done of you, our master. And its all because you have saved us, you have purchased us with the precious blood of Jesus. Oh Lord help us we pray to live for you, to become like you. Help us to do our part for we want our lives to be to the praise, glory and honour of Jesus, for he has given us this great salvation.  Help us to determine to be Holy, as you are holy. To live for Jesus to become like Jesus.

Amen

 

20Apr/18

Suffering now, glory to follow

1 Peter 1v6-12

Six Nations Rugby.  Let me take you back to 2009, when Ireland ended a 61-year wait for Grand Slam glory and landed their first RBS 6 Nations title after dethroning Wales 17-15 at the Millennium Stadium  in dramatic fashion because they were forced to hang on amid a nerve-shredding climax as Wales fly-half Stephen Jones missed a 50-metre penalty with the game’s final kick.

Hibernian football team, won the Scottish Cup in 2016 after a wait of 114 years, the last time they won that trophy was in 1902.

Sports Journalist Tom Adams, wrote an article on the Rio olympics and said that for team GB, Rio 2016 was their ‘Glory Games’, because they enjoyed their greatest ever Olympics

We love the glory of sporting success – especially if concerns who we are supporting.  But we know that before that glory of sporting success, there would of been a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot of disappointments for those athletes, which made the sweet smell of glory all the more wonderful. 

On September 2, 1945 the documents of surrender officially ending World War II were signed by the Japanese and designated representatives of allied nations. General Douglas MacArthur officiated the ceremony aboard the USS Missouri and was the last to sign on behalf of the United States.

MacArthur, flanked by his military colleagues, took his Parker fountain pen and simply signed his first name “Douglas.” He then passed the pen to General Wainwright, who signed “Mac.” MacArthur then handed the pen to General Percival, who signed “Arthur.”

This unusual procedure was MacArthur’s way of honoring the two United States generals who had suffered severe persecution as prisoners of war. They had persevered, and now they were allowed to share in the glory of victory.

 

Last time, we looked at God’s great salvation in Jesus.    For those who have accepted that salvation, we said that our salvation was a sure hope, because it holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

We said that:

Our hope is anchored in the past because Jesus rose

Our hope remains in the present because Jesus lives, and

Our hope is completed in the future because Jesus is coming again.

And as we come into this passage, Peter tells us, verse 6, that in all of this you greatly rejoice.  

We have hope to shout about!   That hope in Jesus is a sure hope – He is our past, our present and our future.  Praise be to God for His great salvation.  Praise be to God for Jesus.  May we know the joy of our salvation.  Not only have we been saved from the wrath and punishment of God for our sin, but we have been given new life and saved into an inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.  Glory to His Name!

Now I would love to stay on this theme of rejoicing in the salvation of God that is Jesus, but like Peter we need to move on very quickly from exuberance to agony; from rejoicing to suffering.

He says that in all this you greatly rejoice, through for a little time you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

And here Peter, starts to introduce the heart of his letter.  He alluded to it in his opening introduction when he said he is writing to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces.   They were scattered because the church was being persecuted, and Peter is writing to them because they are suffering grief in all kinds of kinds.

Peter lives in the real world.  Peter says he is writing to God’s elect – people who have been selected by God to live for Him – that’s great news – that’s encouraging news, but they are people who are dealing with the realities of the real world.   Peter says while it’s important to rejoice in God’s great salvation – he is also aware that they suffering grief in all kinds of trials.

One of the challenges of being a pentecostal church is that we may be branded with the term of being ‘Happy-clappy’.  According to Wikipedia this is a style of worship involving joyful congregational songs, often accompanied by acoustic guitars and drums in which the congregation clap along to the rhythm of the song, or raise one or both hands in the air, and occasionally dance. 

And I suppose the impression that we can give in our services is that we are somehow detached from the realities of life.   We are here in a Sunday morning celebrating and rejoicing in Jesus, rejoicing in our God – for who He is and for what He has done – and we make no apology for that – but we also people who experience the realities of life. 

Just because we are bouncing around at the front, rejoicing in Gods salvation does not mean that I have no trials to face as soon as I walk out that door.

And this is the heart of the letter that Peter is writing about – He is writing about the practicalities of living this Christian life in the realities and challenges that face us – about living a godly lifestyle in a world where there is so much suffering.  And it’s not easy.

All of us face suffering, grief, trials of many kinds whether we believe in Jesus or not, but for those who know God’s great salvation, these sufferings, griefs, these trials of many kinds, come with the hope of Jesus to take us through.  And the first thing that hope gives us is our suffering and trials is

Joy.

Yes, we can know joy in our suffering. And let me be clear because joy is something entirely different from happiness. Joy, in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. . . . Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart, so please do not misunderstand me and think I’m telling you to be happy in suffering and trials. Im not talking about emotions, I’m talking about attitude.

Paul says in Romans 5v 2&3 that we boast in the hope of the glory of God; Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings

In the book of James, he says in chapter 1v2 that we are to count it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. 

And Peter in writing to those facing the realities of life, says that we can find joy in suffering for 2 reasons

Reason 1: It is for a little while.

Our hope in Christ points us to beyond our trials. Our troubles last a little while, but our hope in Christ lasts forever. 

Jesus is our ultimate example of suffering for a little while for the glory to come where the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 12 verse 2 that Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame because of the joy that was set before him.

Paul tells the Corinthians that ‘our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all

That’s in 2 Corinthians 4v17

And this leads me onto the. Second reason

Reason 2: It strengthens our faith

Peter declared in verse 5 that is is through faith, shielded by God’s power, that our future inheritance, our glory if you like, is kept

Our faith then must continue through our life-long pilgrimage.  If our faith is to endure it must be purified and stress-tested.  Like gold it must past through the furnace.  Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. God allows trials to strengthen our trust in Him so that our faith will not fail.

Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to our Saviour. The fires of affliction do not reduce our faith to ashes, for fire does not destroy gold, it only removes combustable impurities.  gold will one day perish, but Peter says your faith is more valuable, is of greater worth than gold

I was listening to a church leaders podcast and Joni Eareckson Tada was being interviewed.  As many of you will know she had a diving accident when she was 17 and is now as quadriplegic.  She plunged into despair and depression, but a Christian friend spoke 10 words to her that changed her thinking.  The 10 words were ‘God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’.  Let me repeat that: God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’.   Wow. That’s powerful.  The point she was making and she suffers every day is that God does not like our afflictions, whether that’s quadriplegia or a sore back or mental health issues or whatever. But in his sovereignty he allows it in order to accomplish what he loves – and he loves for Christ to be formed in us.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And in church we sometimes pray against suffering, we want rid of it, we don’t like it, but we also need to balance that and remember ‘God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves’. 

Think of it this way, you don’t get faith by sitting in a Bible study group or just talking about it. Faith is like a muscle; it develops by being used. The more you use your faith, the more it gets stretched. And the more it gets stretched, the more God is able to bless your life.  If you like the tent pegs that Isaiah talks about are expanded. We call the circumstances that God creates to stretch our faith “trials”.   So in the bible studies that kick off this week – remember growing your faith is not just about sitting in a bible study talking about it, and learning from others. Yes that is part of it, but faith  also grows through your daily time with Jesus, with your witness to Jesus, and it also grows through your circumstances – especially if you find yourself in a “trial”.  All of these things together grow faith.

So you can count it joy when you face trials because God is using your adversity to form more of Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And what happens then is that joy gets joined to suffering, because as verse 7 says these sufferings that we experience in the realities of life – result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Our tested faith does not earn any glory that will be given to us, but as those whose future hope is in Christ and His return, as those that are joined to Him in his death and resurrection, so we will also share in His glory, and if we receive any glory through that it will be our joy to cast those crowns before Him.

And for those who know God’s great salvation, sufferings and griefs, trials of many kinds, our hope in Jesus gives us joy that can take us through for he is growing our faith, he is forming more of Christ in us. And the second thing, very briefly, is love

Love

Verse 8 says, 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.

And this is an incredible thing.  You see finding that inexpressible and glorious joy in trials is only possible because of your love and your belief in Jesus.

To say it in another way, if we do not have that inexpressible and glorious joy in our trials, then maybe we need to look at how much we love and believe in Jesus

Our love for Jesus is our tribute to Him in our suffering.  Our belief in Him for this great salvation that is in Jesus testifies that our faith in Him is genuine.  It’s real.

Our love and belief in Jesus is where the cruel realities of this world collide with the great hope of salvation that we rejoice in.  This, if you like, is where the rubber hits the road.  Because your love and belief in Jesus, in this great salvation, determines your attitude of joy when suffering and grief, when trial of many kinds come our way.

And in those times of suffering, grief and trail a verse you can turn to is Psalm 119 v 50 says ‘My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserve my life’.  So in our suffering we trust in his promise. We can declare them:  He’s never going to leave us or forsake us;  He has won the victory; he is my shield and fortress, underneath are the everlasting arms, You could go on.  And as we declare there promises in our suffering, in our trial, then The suffering may not depart but you know a strength from the Lord that lets us go on when we cannot in ourselves. In other words Gods power is made manifest in our weakness.   It’s living out what we believe.

Peter says that trials come our way, verse 7, so that the proven genuineness of your faith may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Genuine faith, a faith that is real.  A faith that does not give up when the going gets tough.  A faith that shows a love for Jesus that says I’m trusting you in this Lord.  A love for Jesus that comes to him when we are weary and heavy laden.  A belief in Jesus that knows He has the answer.  A love for Jesus that knows that His abundant grace is sufficient and His abundant peace is there in times of trouble. 

A love for Jesus because we believe in Jesus to bring us to that end result of our faith – the salvation of our souls.  That hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

Finally, the third thing that hope in Jesus gives us to takes us through trials is knowing glory is a promise

Glory is a promise

Peter wants to encourage us that when we are suffering now, glory will follow.   Its the pattern, it’s the way.  The Christ of the cross is the Christ in glory. The sequence of our lives in Christ follow the life of Christ.  He suffered before He entered His Glory, and so must we. 

Peter misunderstood this.   When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword to try and rescue Jesus from suffering.  Peter was not alone in this misunderstanding – the two disciples win the road to Emmaus, also did not understand and Jesus had to explain to them from the scripture why the Messiah had to suffer first before entering His glory.

The Old Testament spoke of it – like David fleeing from Saul’s presence – a picture of someone who was innocent and a king, suffering prior to the glory of being King of Israel.  Because he was A man after God’s own heart.

The prophets in the Old Testament pronounced God’s judgement on the sin of His people but they did not stop at judgement. The final vision is not of dry bones in death valley, rather it is renewal beyond conceiving.

Job’s anguish has an astonishing answer – after the suffering came even greater glory than he knew before.

And this pattern of suffering then glory has profound meaning for the church.

Our suffering is not a sign that Christ has betrayed us, or that He is no longer Lord, rather it is a sign of our fellowship  with the risen Lord who first suffered for us.   Suffering therefore predicts that there is a glory to come.

You see Jesus is not just one example of suffering and glory among many. His is THE suffering that brought salvation. His is THE glory that brings the new creation.

And when we love Him; when we believe in Him, even though we do not see him now, the suffering that we face tells me that one day we will.   For this great salvation in Jesus is what the prophets all pointed to. Christ is the fulfilment of all prophecy and we have the privilege of looking back to the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding His suffering, and we can trust in his promises of the glory to come.

Conclusion

Are you experiencing suffering and grief and trials of many kinds. I know I am. 

But as I have studied this passage, I am encouraged.   Because this trial in my life, is only for a little while, it’s strengthening my faith, because it’s driving me to Jesus;  burning up what not important.  And this gives me joy, because as James 1 says, trials produce perseverance – and I need to let perseverance finish it’s work.  And if I lack wisdom, I should ask God.  And in the trial, I cry out for wisdom.  I cry out to Jesus, the wisdom of God.  I come to Him.  I put my trust in Him, because I love Him, because I believe in Him, because I know there is a glory to come.  

Because that’s the pattern, suffering now, glory to follow. 

And this morning if you are facing suffering and grief, experiencing a trial of many kind, then if you don’t know this great salvation in Jesus then what do you have that gives you hope through that trial. 

Self help books will tell you that to find hope, your mind can create a world of possibility, in the present, which will give you the positive momentum to create the future you want. Add to this, moments of happiness and you will naturally strive forward with no doubt.

That may be all well and good, but it’s not a sure hope – it’s a wishful thinking kind of hope – it’s a hope that things can only get better, can only get better if you see it through – that’s not a sure hope.

But suffering and grief and all kinds of trials knowing Jesus, knowing his great salvation, you can have a sure hope – because it’s a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.  It is a hope in which we can rejoice.

It’s a hope that means we can have an attitude of joy because it is only for a little while, and it’s strengthening our faith, it’s showing that our faith in Jesus is real because our love for him in the trial is a tribute to Him, our belief in Him is based on the assurance that there is a glory to come.  

With Jesus we recognise that he permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves.  

For God allowed Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for our sin.  He permitted the devil to have his way.  But God allowed that to bring about that which he loves. The means by which we can be reconciled to God.  The greatest suffering became the greatest glory.

Suffering now, glory to follow. 

Suffering and grief and all kinds of trials happen to us all.

The difference is Jesus. 

In your suffering and grief. In your trial of many kinds, where is your hope this morning?

I know where mine is.  It’s in Jesus and my prayer is that yours will be too.

Amen.

20Apr/18

Hope to shout about!

1 Peter 1v1-9

I wonder if you have been so excited about something that you want to shout it from the rooftops, you want to get above all the noise and tell everyone about it because it is such good news.

There are times in our lives when good news comes along…. babies, engagements, new job, new house, healing, all sorts of things that we want to tell the world about.   These are the moments in our lives when we feel an enormous sense of joy and we want to tell people. 

People receive good news in different ways.   Some go woo hoo!  They jump up and down and spin round and round.  Some just shout ‘yes’ and punch a fist in the air. Depending on the news, some heave a huge sigh of relief as weight is lifted from their shoulders.  Some cry because of the emotion connected with the news.

And Peter this morning in the passage we read together, is telling us good news. It’s good news he has received and it’s good news he is shouting from the rooftops.  Praise, he says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!   Peter is praising God, why?  

Because in His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, AND into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for 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 rejoicing in what God has done – he has given us new birth through the resurrection of Jesus

Peter is rejoicing in what God is doing – he has brought us into a living hope for today; He is shielding us by God’s power

and Peter is rejoicing in what God is going to do – He’s coming again; He’s going to take us into an inheritance that cannot perish, spoil of fade.  That inheritance is kept in heaven for us.

Peter shouts from the rooftops,  Praise, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for what He’s done, for what He’s doing, and for what He is going to do.

Concerning what?  Concerning salvation.  God’s salvation..  God’s salvation from sin and death. 

When we kicked off this series in 1 Peter, we said that God the Father loves us so much that He wants to spend eternity with us and so He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross as the punishment for our sin – to take the punishment for what separates us from Him.  And God raised Jesus from the dead so that we can know new life – a life free from the chains of sin, a life with God himself, the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us.  That’s what God has provisioned for us – He took the initiative because He loved us that much.

But we need to understand the necessity of the death of Christ and the meaning of His resurrection for ourselves.

We have to accept Christ’s work on the cross for us, that we cannot know eternal life unless we believe in him and accept Him as our saviour.   And when we accept him into our lives, the provision of God gets applied.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, redeems us from the penalty of sin and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and gives us new life and we become the chosen of God.  Grace and Peace can be ours in abundance.  Hallelujah!  

This is the salvation that Peter knows and this is the salvation that Peter is so excited about, because it gives hope. 

In the film Despicable Me, Gru is downcast. The bank have stopped lending him money to build a rocket to go to the moon.  There is no money left.  He suggest his Minions look for other jobs and get their resume’s in order.   He says they are doomed.  Then the 3 girls he is fostering give him their piggy bank – it has a few coins in it.  Then a minion produces a dollar, then another a watch, and all of a sudden Gru has hope – they will build their rocket with the money from the piggy bank and whatever else they can find.

Hope is used today to inspire.  Used by leaders to inspire the aspirations of what could be, the difference you can make as an individual – what could you discover, what could you build, what kind of society could you be involved in creating.   But hope today in this world is based on a what could be type of hope – an aspirational hope.  It’s not a sure hope;  people might say hope in the world today is a hope against hope – for example some may say I hope Donald Trump will be a good US president, but they don’t actually believe he will.

Peter writes of a sure hope because…. God’s salvation in Jesus, that Peter is so excited about, is a sure hope – it is a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

It is a hope that is anchored in the past: for Jesus rose! 

Peter says in verse 3, that God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus was a life changing reality for Peter.   When Jesus died on the cross, it was the end of Peter’s hopes.  He knew the sorrow of his own denial of Jesus. The cockerel crow still ringing in his head.

But Jesus did not stay dead.   On that Easter morning, the women discovered the tomb empty, a young man dressed in white telling them Jesus was alive – to tell his disciples, and Peter, tell that Jesus was alive, the women then saw Jesus alive; Peter heard the message from the women, he ran to the empty tomb to see for himself.   He left in wonder. He appeared to Peter.  He restored Peter.  Hope was reborn in Peter.  Jesus, his master, was alive.  He has seen the living Lord and now he writes to tell us to praise God for that new birth because jesus rose

Hope is alive, for Jesus is alive. He is resurrected from the dead. Our Sin for which he died is defeated; death has been conquered.  Jesus rose!

But it is also a hope that remains in the present: for Jesus lives!  

Christ’s resurrection spells hope for us not just because He lives, but because, by God’s mercy, we live

Again, verse 3, In his great mercy, he (that is God), has given us new life into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Now when we speak of new birth, we often speak of the change that God works in us when we accept Christ into our lives.  The old has gone, the new has come.  We are brought from a place of spiritual death into spiritual life.  But if we only think of the change of what happened to us when we accepted Christ, then we miss something.

When we accepted Jesus, we became united with Him, we are now in Christ. and so in God giving life to Christ, God gives life to us. We have eternal life now.  Peter is declaring what Paul also declared when he said, when Christ rose, we rose.  It is a present tense, living hope that we have today, because our hope is not just based on fact that Jesus rose, it is based on the fact that Jesus lives!  And because He lives, I have life, because I am united with Him in life.   Col 3v3 My life is now hidden with Christ in God

He has brought us into a living hope.  Because he rose I can have new birth and because he lives I  have life and that gives me a present tense living hope.  He lives and he lives in me and I live in him and the reality of our lives that are united by the Spirit of God tells me that greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world, tells me he will never leave me nor forsake me, tells me I can talk to him anytime, anywhere about everything, I have a relationship with the living God.  I have a living hope because Jesus lives. 

And it is a hope that will be completed in the future: for Jesus is coming!

verse 5 says that we are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.    Jesus is coming.   And when Jesus comes we will enter into an inheritance – that is kept in heaven for us.

The movie Brewster’s Millions tells the story of a Monty Brewster. He is a Minor League Baseball pitcher with the Hackensack Bulls. He and his best friend Spike Nolan, the Bulls’ catcher, are arrested after a post-game bar fight and cannot afford bail. A stranger offers bail, if they will come to New York City with him. At the Manhattan law office of Granville & Baxter, Brewster is told that his recently deceased great-uncle Rupert Horn, whom he has never met, has left him his entire fortune but with several conditions.

Brewster is challenged to either take $1 million upfront, or spend $30 million within 30 days to inherit $300 million. If he chooses the former, the law firm becomes the executor of the estate and divides the money among charities (after taking a fee). In the latter case, after 30 days, he may not own any assets that are not already his, and he must get value for the services of anyone he hires. He may donate only 5% to charity and lose 5% by gambling, and he may not waste the money by purchasing and destroying valuable items. Finally, he is not allowed to tell anyone, even Spike. If he fails to spend the entire $30 million, he forfeits whatever balance that is left and inherits nothing. Brewster decides to take the $30 million challenge and the movie tells that story.

Now that’s quite an inheritance to be offered, beyond our wildest imagination, to receive especially from a great uncle you’ve never met.  

And sometimes we can view the inheritance that is kept in heaven for us a little bit like that.  God is our great benefactor that will give us a vast sum of money, and a vast mansion that caters for our every whim when we get to heaven.  It will be paradise but only if we’ve been good people here on earth – only if we’ve stored up treasure in heaven.

But it’s not an inheritance like that – it is an inheritance that is already in heaven, kept for us and it’s an inheritance that will not perish.  It cannot be destroyed.   It is an inheritance that will not spoil.  It cannot be defiled.  It is an inheritance that cannot fade.  It cannot dry up or wither.   Peter uses this language to describe something so much better than even the best of this world has to offer.  There is only one thing I know that will not perish, spoil or fade.  Jesus said ‘heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.’  John says that the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was speaking of Jesus.  Jesus will never pass away – he will not perish spoil or fade.  Our inheritance is Jesus, is God himself, to be with him forever. 

Because our inheritance is in heaven, nothing on earth can alter it or destroy it.   Jesus is ascended. He is kept in heaven until he come!

Our inheritance is not simply a land, a city or even a new earth.  It is all that God will give us – His Salvation and our salvation is in Jesus.   God has prepared His salvation for us.  In verse 5, Peter says that it is ready to be revealed. Jesus is ready to come at any moment.  Father just needs to say the word.  Christ is coming for us so that where He is so shall we be forever.

Not only is our inheritance kept for us; we are kept for our inheritance.   We are shielded, verse 4, by God’s power until that great day when the completion of our salvation will be revealed.  We have eternal life now. His Holy Spirit in us guarantee, a seal. We are kept, through faith.   Faith is the confidence of what we hope for, the assurance about what we do not see.  In other words we know of the reality of Christ alive in us now so we have confidence ,in our inheritance and the truth that one day we will be with  the Lord forever.

Conclusion

Have you been so excited about something that you want to shout it from the rooftops, you want to get above all the noise and tell everyone about it because it is such good news.

Peter leads the way for us this morning.  The man who denied Jesus, the man whose hope was  gone, is the man in whom hope was reborn and who who has accepted the living Lord and received the salvation of God. Is the man who leads us is praise to God this morning for his great salvation in Jesus. 

We could not even begin to accomplish it, and we do not in any sense deserve it.  But it is something that has been given to us when we accepted Jesus as our saviour.   It is a sure salvation – it is a sure hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.

Our hope is anchored in the past: Jesus rose!

Our hope remains in the present: Jesus lives!

Our hope is completed in the future: Jesus is coming!

As those who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we are trophies of God’s grace, and we have the privilege of praising the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Father.   The excitement and praise Peter gives in verses 3-5 is not a formula, it is the goal of God’s work in bringing us to salvation that we may praise and glorify His name. 

I wonder, where is your hope?  

There is a saying ‘we live in hope’ – to hope that something you want to happen will happen one day.   Is that the hope you have this morning?

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  That’s a pretty gloomy outlook on life.  Anything good that happens is just a bonus.

But Peter found something sure that thrilled him; that excited him; that he wanted to shout from the rooftops – to let the whole world know.   God’s salvation.   Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead!  He has given us new birth and because He lives; I live; and He is the inheritance that is kept in heaven for us, and through faith we can live in that sure future today until He comes.

We can should aloud His praise, we can praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s not be ashamed of what Christ has done, what He is doing, what He will do, for Christ is our hope, the hope of Gods salvation that is anchored in the past, remaining in the present and completed in the future. let’s shout it from the rooftops, let’s invite our friends to church, invite our families to church, let others know how great the salvation of God is. Let others come and meet Jesus so they too can know this good news, nay… this great news of Gods salvation.

Amen.

20Apr/18

Grace and Peace be yours

1 Peter 1v1-2

At the start of any new year, we express words like ‘Happy New Year’, ‘Best wishes for the year ahead’, ‘Wishing you much love and happiness in the new year’.   Whatever the expression, the sentiment is the same – it is to express for each other a hope that we desire for ourselves.  That the coming year will be a good year, a year filled with positive things. Every year we say the same, and I love that – that sense of blessing that we express for each other – may you know  happiness, love, laughter, friendship, prosperity, health, good things. 

These are all words that we express to each other and that we receive from each other at this time of year.    And it’s lovely to hear all these expressions of love that we give to our family and friends and to those we share life with because there is something in each of us that wants life to be good, healthy and full, to be rewarding and enjoyable.   That is why we find it so difficult when things in life don’t meet our expectations.  We struggle with sadness, loneliness, grief, debt, fatigue, health issues, unemployment because that’s not what we go looking for in life, and it’s certainly not what we wish for each other at the start of a new year.

And while we do not wish these negative things on each other, we know that for many, they will be altogether very real, just like they were for many for whom the previous year was a very difficult year.  We can only express a wishful hope for a good year to each other, but we cannot guarantee it, because we do not know what the year ahead will hold.  For many it will be more of the same, the struggles of last year were the struggles of the year before, so why should this coming year be any different.

Nicky Gumble said that he never forgot a talk he heard over 30 years ago. The speaker started by saying that the Christian life is ‘battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle and blessing, battle….. and blessing.’   Nicky said that the speaker made a memorable and profound point – when in the battle it’s hard to believe it will ever come to an end; and in times of blessing we wish it could go on forever, but life’s not like that – There are battles AND blessing – sometimes when we are being blessed in one area of our lives, there is a battle in another.  We just need to look back to know this to be true.

And in the first 2 verses of 1 Peter, we discover Peter is writing to people who are scattered – they are in a battle – the church is being persecuted and the believers are scattered, but they are also people who are blessed – they are chosen by God to live for Him.   They are people who know battle AND blessing. 

On a reading of 1 Peter, which I would encourage you to do, we discover the blessing they experience – the new life Jesus has given them, the inheritance awaiting them in heaven, who they are in Christ, the love they have for each other, the hospitality they share, but we also read of the battles they face – battles against their inward desires to lead them away from Christ, living for Jesus in a pagan society, their conduct with authorities, in families, in church, the suffering that they face for doing good. They are people who face battles AND blessings.

So what is it, that Peter holds out to them, and therefore to us, at the start of a year, or season, which we know will contain battles AND blessing.  He holds out this… the end of 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 2 – Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Grace and peace be yours.  In other words, Peter wants us as the reader to own that grace and that peace, not just a little, but that we will know it and receive it in abundance!

It was Paul who revealed that he had, what he called, this ‘thorn in the flesh’, and 3 times he asked if the Lord would remove it, but the Lord did not remove it but instead said to him, ‘my grace is sufficient for you’;  It was Jesus who said, in this world you will have trouble, but I have told you these things so that you might have peace’

And Peter wants us to have this grace and peace, this grace in things we struggle with, this peace in times of trouble, in abundance, because we are going to need them to take us through the battles that we face, and in those battles we will find this abundance of grace and this abundance of peace to be a great source of blessing.  And in the time ahead as we surge forward in prayer, and in small group bible study and in mission, in our desire to see people come to know Jesus, it’s not going to be easy – there are going to be battles and blessing. There will be battles and blessing and we need to know an abundance of grace and peace if we are going to stay of track to fulfil the vision God had given us.

And there are 3 questions I want to ask in relation to this abundant grace and peace that is offered to us.

The first question is who – who can have this.

The answer to the question is found in who Peter is writing to – he is writing to God’s elect, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

2016 was described as the year the election polls got it wrong.  They failed to predict an outcome to leave the EU, they failed to predict Donald Trump becoming US president.  But there is one election outcome that has been predicted since before time began, that is 100% correct, and that is the election of people to be followers of Jesus, because God is doing the choosing.

Romans 8 says that God foreknew who would become followers of Jesus, and those he pre-destined – in others words those He set a course for their lives, those are the people that He called, to be justified, to be glorified – to be conformed, to become like Jesus.   In other words, God has already chosen the followers of Jesus to be in heaven with Him for ever.  They have been selected, chosen by God.

Now that would suggest that if God knew who would become followers of Jesus, and who would not, then why does God also say that he desires that none should perish but all should become followers of Jesus.  It seems like a paradox.  God selects some, but offers it to all, knowing not all will be chosen.

One illustration I found helpful was that of a door.   On one side of the door was the offer for anyone to enter and if the person chose to go through the door, then when they walked though and looked back, the word above that same door was ‘chosen’

God gives us free choice to choose and accept His offer, but once we have made the choice for Him, we discover that we did not choose God but that He chose us.  This is the wonder of His amazing grace in Jesus.  This mystery of God’s choosing will always offend those who stand before God with pride, ready to accuse Him of favouritism, but those whom God’s love has drawn them to Christ will always confess the wonder of His initiative to us in grace.

So the answer to the first question – who can have this abundant grace and abundant peace – the answer is everyone but it is only offered to those who have been chosen by God, those to whom God foreknew would accept Jesus Christ to be Saviour and Lord of their lives.  Nothing we did to merit it, just chosen in his amazing grace

The second question is related to the first, how can I become one who is chosen

Thankfully, there is a way to become those who have been chosen. It’s not like donkey in the movie Shrek jumping up and down saying pick me pick me!  But it is something that is wonderful about the gospel message.  Because all are welcome, for God loves everyone, and God desires all to come to know Jesus as their Saviour and Lord for Jesus is the door through which we can know eternal life.

Peter writes that those who are chosen are those who are obedient to Jesus Christ through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and who have been sprinkled with His blood.  What does this mean. 

You see for one to be chosen, God will act to make those His own. To belong to God means they must be redeemed from their sin, for sin separates us from God, and washed from it’s stain.  They must be made holy as God is holy.  That means to be set apart.   And to describe how God does this, Peter, refers to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus Christ.   It is by Christ’s blood that we can be cleansed and redeemed from sin and it is through the Holy Spirit that God is able to give us new life – to be called chosen.

But Peter also speaks of obedience to Jesus Christ, which means there is something on our part to be done. 

God the Father loves us so much that He wants to spend eternity with us and so He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross as the punishment for our sin – to take the punishment for what separates us from Him.  And God raised Jesus from the dead so that we can know new life – a life free from the chains of sin, a life with God himself, the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us.  That’s what God has provisioned for us – He took the initiative because He loved us that much.

But we need to understand the necessity of the death of Christ and the meaning of His resurrection for ourselves.  As Peter says later on in chapter 2v24, that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.

We have to be obedient to Christ, to accept Christ’s work on the cross for us, that we cannot know eternal life unless we accept Christ into our lives.   He stands at our door wanting relationship with us, are we willing to be obedient to that knocking, open the door and allow Him to come into our lives.  

For when we do, the provision of God gets applied.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, redeems us from the penalty of sin and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and gives us new life and we become the chosen of God. Hallelujah!   We become those who God foreknew would believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation.

And the third question is where can I know this grace and peace.

And the answer is anywhere.  Wherever you find yourself.   Peter wrote to those scattered throughout the provinces.  That means as the chosen people of God, you and I can know that abundant grace and abundant peace where ever we find ourselves.

It also means that we can know this abundant grace and abundant peace no matter what we do – Peter was an apostle, that was his role, but he was one who was chosen just like those he was writing to.  God called him to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, but all of us who are chosen by God are also called by God to do something for Him, and we can all know abundant grace and peace in what we do for Him. 

What difference does it make to where we are and what we do to be someone chosen by God?

It make a massive difference because Peter also calls those to whom he is writing to, exiles, they are scattered.  Peter in Chapter 2v11 tells us again that we are foreigners and exiles. In other words we can know abundant grace and abundant peace because as chosen people we are transients, temporary residents, travellers in this world heading for our native land.  Those chosen are called to endure alienation as strangers, but who have a heavenly citizenship and destiny.

Now we could argue that we are all on a journey – Jean Brun says that the the god of the west may be seen as in a place of eternal thirst just under ripe fruit that is just beyond reach.  Frustrated by desire, people vainly seek to overcome the limits of space and time, devising technologies to extend reach or to improve grasp.  Always seeking more, always wanting more, never satisfied.   The god of the east is perceived differently.  It is like the figure of a Buddha, not reaching out but arms folded.  Finding escape by quenching desires – using hands in meditation – to change the perception of the world’s illusions, trying to find inner peace.

But Peter writes to the scattered chosen people of God in their various places, within western and eastern cultures, in their various roles, he writes to them as a community; they are the chosen people of God in the world.  They are not reaching for ever increasing desires of this world, they are not looking inward for inner peace, but they are reaching heavenward to something that you can know, reaching heavenward because they cannot achieve it for themselves.  

They are to be recognised in the world by a different lifestyle – not eastern lifestyle or western lifestyle, but a Godly lifestyle.  Indeed through the new life of the Spirit within them, their lives are to be radically different and in the remainder of his letter, Peter sets out the motivation and pattern of the new lifestyle of those chosen and scattered throughout the world. 

And it is because of this radically different lifestyle for which we are chosen that Peter says grace and peace be yours, be yours, in abundance, because you are going to know battles and blessing in that radical lifestyle.

Conclusion

Times ahead, like times past, will contain battles and blessings.  As we move forward in God as a church there may be more battles than normal, but there will also be more blessings. 

For those of us who know Jesus as Saviour and Lord, our challenge is to live a godly lifestyle that shows were are in the world, but not of it.  We are to do that because we have been chosen to do so by God himself. We have been specifically selected.

And to live that way, we need to take on board what Peter says – grace and peace can be ours in abundance.

We need to accept that abundance grace.  Things may not always work out – there will be difficulties – there will be people who are against us maybe just because we are Christians – but His grace is sufficient for us – it is the unmerited, abundant, favour of God as one who has been chosen by God to be a recipient of His grace.  You have been cleansed and redeemed from sin through Jesus Christ, and you have a new life and a new destiny, what you endure in this world is only temporary.

We need to accept that abundant peace.  For, as Jesus said, in this world we will have trouble – relationships, finance, health, sorrow, you name it, we could have it, but Jesus also said that he told us about it so that we can have peace.  We can know abundant peace because Jesus has made our lives right with God, and there is no greater peace than knowing our lives are right with God, irrespective of what happens in this world. 

For those of you who do not know Jesus as Saviour and Lord, you can know this abundant grace and peace.  Yes you can, for the invitation is open and as I have explained, when you choose to accept Jesus, you find that you have been chosen and it is marvellous in our eyes to see his amazing grace, for I once what lost, but now am found, I once was blind but now I see. I once was where you are, but I accepted the invitation of Jesus and now I can know his abundant grace and abundant peace because Christ shed His blood for me on the cross and his Holy Spirit lives in me.  I was once anyone, but now I am one chosen, chosen by God.

My prayer is that whatever the future holds for you – holds for us as church – in the battles and in the blessings – may we know, may we receive, may we utilise the abundant grace and the abundant peace that comes from knowing Jesus, knowing His love for us, knowing that He chose us, knowing your life, as different as it may be to the rest of the world, can make a difference in this world for it is a life that is destined to win. It is a life that is directed heavenward. So may grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Amen. 

28Dec/16

Who You Are

Turn with me please again to 1 Peter Chapter 2. Two weeks ago we looked at verses 4-8 and we talked about how Jesus is precious.

Jesus being precious to God, because through Jesus, we can come to Father – we can get to know Father. Father longs to be known by us because He wants to reveal Himself to us and He does that through Jesus.

Jesus being precious to the church not just because He is the cornerstone and therefore determines the entire structure but He is also the only way through which we, individually and collectively as a body of people, can please God. Only through Christ can we be who God calls us to be – a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. Living stones, living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

But we also said that Jesus is precious to those believe, because in Jesus, we have hope. Hope of a future with Him forever in eternity.

And because of how precious Jesus is in relation of knowing God, in enabling us to live for God and having an eternal future with Him, how precious He is to us is marked by our obedience to Him. And that was the challenge left last time – how precious is Jesus to us – because the answer to that is outworked in our daily lives as we seek to obey His instructions for life and godliness.

So this week, we are going to look at 1 Peter 2 v 9-12, but let’s just read from verse 4 to re-aquaint ourselves with this passage.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone –rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame. ”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone, ’”
8 and,
“A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall. ”
They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

So verse 9 starts with “but you are..” which means that what we are not has just gone before.

And what we are not, are people who stumble because of disobedience to the message, the message of Christ and how precious He is.

But to those who obey the message, those to whom Jesus is precious, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. People who have received mercy. Wonderful isn’t it.

Now we are in the middle of the annual event of IACGMOOH (I-ack-g-moo). It does sound rather good in a Welsh accent but it is not a welsh word. The annual IACGMOOH is run by these 2 chaps (Ant & Dec)

Yes, you’ve got it IACGMOOH stands for I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! 12 celebrities with no luxuries slugging it out in the Australian Jungle for 3 weeks each one hoping to be crowned King or Queen of the Jungle. Or each one hoping that the experience won’t make them look like an idiot and hoping that it will boost their celebrity ratings.

Now just a little bit of Psychology for you. Hollander’s Model is one of many theories regarding personality.

Hollander’s theory states that behaviour is a combination of both built in personality traits and environmental factors.

So if we were to look at I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, the social environment is the Australian Jungle, and the behaviour of the celebrities will be determined by their perception of the environment, the bush tucker trials they do, their personality may change at any time depending on the job they or others are doing in camp. And as they become accustomed to their environment, what we then start to see are typical responses based on their learned & stored experience that gives an inkling of their psychological core – the ‘real them’ – their attitudes, values, self concept – that which is them, the person behind the celebrity.

And we have read from 1 Peter 2 and that talks about us being a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. People who have received mercy.

That’s not talking about the social environment, that’s not role related behaviour, it’s not even typical responses Peter is talking about. It’s the physiological core – it’s who we are. This is who we are in Christ. This is the reality to those who believe, to whom Jesus is precious – you are, you ARE, YOU ARE a chosen people. YOU ARE a royal priesthood, YOU ARE a holy nation, YOU ARE a people belonging to God. YOU ARE the people of God; YOU HAVE received mercy.

Believer this morning. You are blessed.

Verses 9 & 10. Peter wants the reader to know how special they are.

We are a chosen people. This choosing is a work totally of God’s grace. Look at what Paul says in Eph 1:4-6: 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

We are a Royal Priesthood. Christians being royal priests represent the fact that we have been united with Christ. Romans 8:17 calls us coheirs with Christ. It means we will reign with Him, and here on earth, our role is to draw men unto himself and to lead people in the worship of him as priests. Peter wants us to realise we are blessed

We are a holy nation. Set apart by God for good works, to serve him and worship him. As we looked at a number of weeks ago now, Eph 2:10,“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. God chose us to display his beautiful artwork—his character and good works to the rest of the world. Wow!

We are a people belonging to God. This means that not only are we here to serve God, but we are here for his pleasure. Whatever you own, you own for your pleasure because it gives you joy. Well, God chose you for the purpose of his pleasure.

This is a phenomenal concept and it ought to drastically change how we look at ourselves. This mindset is vitally important to know how special we, as believers, really are, because if we don’t then we simply adopt the mindset of the world around us. And Peter says – no you’re different.

But not only that – in verse 10 it says “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”

It has often been said grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God does not give us what we do deserve. We were once a people under God’s wrath because of our sin and rejection of Christ. But because of God’s grace, we have now received mercy, forgiveness of sins through acceptance of Christ and have become the people of God.

Yes we are blessed, that core of our being in Christ is truly wonderful, but our being is not where it ends – because our doing needs to come out of our being

And what is interesting about verse 9-12 is that the focus seems to be from the inside out, whereas TV reality shows like I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here work from the outside in. And this is actually a very important spiritual principle. It works from the inside out not the outside in. Our doing comes out of our being.

And what is the doing in verses 9-12, well it is simply this

Peter is saying is that Christians should be drastically different from the world. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5:13, when He said you are the salt of the earth. You preserve the world from decay. You have tremendous value. He said you are the light of the world (v. 14). Among the people of the earth, there is a people who are radically different.

Because of this radical difference, Christians can often be mocked and persecuted – we see this happening in our world and in our land today.

Peter writes to encourage us but also to reinforce why we should continue to be different. You see in the midst of persecution and suffering for our faith, there can be a tendency to dull the light and the witness of our lives in order to avoid offence. There can be a tendency to begin to compromise.

This seemed to be happening here in this context. That is why Peter “urges” them in 1 Peter 2:11 to live as strangers and abstain from sinful desires. Continue to be different, continue to be salty, continue to be light, and do not compromise with sin in the face of persecution. Peter reminds them of who they are and what distinguishes them.

Big Question: What marks distinguish believers from the world in 1 Peter 2:9–12? 3 things – and I’m going to go through these very quickly.

1. Believers Are a Worshiping People

verse 9 – That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

In the verses 9-12, this is the first responsibility given to the believer. Believers have been saved from the darkness of sin and out of this world, in order to worship God.

Just like the Lord told Moses to say to Pharoah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me”

God calls us to be worshipping people. But this does not just mean church on a Sunday.

In the world people don’t see God as in control, they are prone to point fingers, complain about bosses, the government, the weather and everything else. However, for the believer who sees their Father in control of everything, it should be drastically different.
Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

How is our worship? How is our thanksgiving? What circumstances is God calling us to give thanks in and worship right now? And I know that we can say to ourselves, “Worship? Worship? How can we worship in this circumstance?” “Yes,” Peter says, “That’s one of the reasons that God called you out of the world. He called you to worship him.” Those receiving this letter from Peter needed to be reminded of this message, and we need to be reminded as well. He called us out of the slavery of sin to worship him, whether on the mountaintop or in the wilderness.

2. Believers Are a People Away from Home

Verse 11: Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

Next, Peter talks about another distinguishing factor that separates them from the world, he calls them “aliens” and “strangers” in this world. The word strangers can also be translated pilgrims.

And like pilgrims In a similar sense, this is not our home. We are different from everybody else and we should not look like the world because this is not our home, I’m just passing through as the old song goes.

And the mentality of being a pilgrim in this world can be easily lost in the church, and therefore, the church become very ineffective and looks just like this world. And the challenge is as church, is have We settled down in this world instead of being pilgrims in it. The world culture is their culture and because the world is in the church, it is difficult for the church to affect the world.

Believer this morning, are you remembering that this was not our home; we are just passing through? If so then our pursuit needs to be differed to the world – it needs to be on what God holds dear, not what the world holds dear – on what Christ requires, not what the world demands.

We are asked to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

Paul says in Galatians 5:17,
For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.

So how do we have victory? Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 5:16: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”.

Paul says “live,” or make your home in the Spirit of God. Our home is not this world – we are in it, but not of it. So we need to live on the basis of our home destination, because that is where our heart is.

3. Believers Are a Beautiful People

Verse 12 – Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The word good can also be translated “beautiful.” Peter says that Christians, even though they are being persecuted and mocked for their beliefs by unbelievers, should respond by demonstrating a beautiful life, which will one day help these pagans glorify God on the day of visitation.

Christ had a beautiful life. Peter says one of the things that should make us different is our beautiful life. Many believe the beauty of this life will shine especially in the face of trial or challenge because it’s not how we act but how we react to those circumstances. People should be able to tell we’re a Christian because of how we respond to persecution or mistreatment from the world.

Look at what Christ said in Matthew 5:43–45,
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

How do we respond to things that happen to us? Do we respond with cursing, anger, and complaining when unjust things happen to us? Or do you respond with a beautiful life—without complaining, without bitterness, humbling ourself, and entrusting our life to God who is just.

This should mark the life of a believer. I have to remind myself of this at times when I’m tempted to respond in a negative way. No, I must live a beautiful life. Jesus responded with a beautiful life, and we should as well.

Conclusion

Believers are a chosen people with many privileges. They are chosen by God to be royal priests, a holy people, a possession of God, and a people who have received mercy. That’s our core

Believers are a worshiping people. Typical response

Believers are a people away from home—pilgrims who are waiting and seeking the kingdom of God, fighting against the flesh. Our behaviour

Believers are a people with beautiful lives especially when faced with persecution or things that are unjust.

If we go back to I’m a celebrity get me out of here, it’s trying to start with the social environment to try and get to the psychological core. But that’s not the way of the Lord – who we are in our psychological core determines how we respond, how we behave and how we interact with our social environment. Our doing comes out of our being. It’s a spiritual principle. Changed from the inside out.

You see when we start declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness, that’s going to cause opposition, that’s going to cause trouble. So we need to be 100% sure of who we are in Christ and where our Home is, because that is going to help us live beautiful lives.

We will only influence the social environment with beautiful lives, when we realise that we called to be different – like strangers / aliens on this earth – we stand out; But that can only happen when our response to any circumstance is worship because we understand who we are in Christ – a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, having received mercy

How is our core; our being – do we see ourselves as we are in Christ

How is our doing – our typical responses – is it worship; our behaviour – is it like an alien or stranger; our lives – are they beautiful.

How do we get there? By simply coming to Jesus and asking. Precious Jesus I want to follow you and be the person you want me to be. Change me from the inside out. I want to be someone who worships you, who pursues heaven’s priorities and who lives a beautiful life to the praise of Him who loved me and gave himself for me.

Amen

28Dec/16

Precious Jesus

Turn with me please to 1 Peter Chapter 2 and I’m going to read from verse 4 through to 12. 1 Peter Chapter 2 verses 4 through 12.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone –rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame. ”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone, ’”
8 and,
“A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall. ”
They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
We have been looking at the theme of being and doing with the principle that out of our being comes the doing, and a couple of weeks ago we looked at the church, this local group of people, as being the temple of the Holy Spirit with the principle that we want our collective doing to come out of a place of collective being and that collective being needs to be a place where God’s Spirit dwells and moves.

And at the prayer meeting on Tuesday, we prayed for ICF to be a place of unity, a place where God is at work through the gifts of the Spirit – people healed, chains broken, lives touched by God – so that when people currently outside of these walls come among us, they declare as 1 Corinthians 14 says – that “God is really among you”

So what I’m thinking is this… that as we have taken time to focus on our need to simply come to Christ, get to know Him more, understand our identity in Him and what that means for our lives, there is the stirring of an appetite building, and that faith is once more rising to start moving beyond the being and into the doing. As David Friend brought through the prophetic last week – faith is rising, but it takes an act of our will to take steps of faith to see those mountains move.

The passage that we read from 1 Peter 2 starts with “As you come to Him” and ends talking about pagans glorifying God on the day he visits us. There is something in this passage that moves us from a place of coming to Jesus and ending with doing things that causes pagans, or non-believers, to glorify God.

The doing comes out of our being and it touches those around us that do not yet know Jesus as Saviour and causes them to take notice and declare “God is really among you!”. Oh Lord, as the the temple of Your Holy Spirit may this church be a place were You dwell and move and people recognise that you are really among us.

So this passage, which was on the list of passages that David Williams and I talked about in June, is coming at a time that would appear to be an amazing co-incidence. To borrow a phrase from David Williams’ humour – a stroke of divine luck. God is gently guiding us towards His purposes. And I believe He is.

So, what we are going to do is look at this passage in two parts. This week we will look at verses 4-8; and in 2 weeks time, God willing, we will look at verses 9-12.

There is one word in verses 4-8 that really stands out for me – and that word is “precious”.

Now as an adjective, the word precious means of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly. So, for example, a precious work of art. As a noun, the word precious is used as a term of address for a beloved person. For example, my sons are precious to me.

Now for all the fans of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the character Smegal, who became known as Gollum, used the term “my precious” in connection with the ring itself. That ring was his life. He was consumed by it – my precious – and when he no longer had it, he never stopped trying to get it – it was his precious – and he eventually died trying to get that ring back.

And we can look at that character of Gollum and think to ourselves – how sad, how sad that the ring consumed him so, and that he killed getting it and that he died trying to get it. Somehow the meaning of precious becomes warped, but actually when we look at this passage we see the word precious in a clear way and it’s all about Jesus.

Verse 4 – the living Stone, that is Jesus, is precious to God
Verse 6 – God says though scripture that he lays, a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion, which is Jesus
Verse 7 – to those who believe, this stone, that is Jesus, is precious.

In relation to the meaning of the word precious as an adjective and a noun, Jesus is both. Jesus is precious, He is beloved. We come this morning to worship precious Jesus; He is of great value, not to be treated carelessly.

And there are 3 things in verse 4-8 that help us realise just how precious Jesus is and these 3 things are this: He is precious to God; He is precious to the church and He is precious to those who believe.

Jesus: Precious to God

Verse 4 says, “As you come to Him, the living Stone” and then there is this little description of the living Stone “- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him”.

Why is Jesus precious to God? Well Isaiah Chapter 42 foretelling the coming of Jesus, says this

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets,
A bruised reed he will not break, and a soldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on the earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.
This is what God the Lord says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
See the former things have taken place, and new things I declare before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

These are wonderful words that God the Father is using to describe Jesus hundreds of years before Jesus walked this earth.

You see, quite simply, Jesus is precious to God because from Genesis to Revelation, the bible declares that Jesus was born into the world as the MANIFESTATION (revealing) of God to the world.

John 1:1-3 and 14, speaking of Jesus, says that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Colossians 2:9 says, “…For in him [Jesus] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

Jesus is the manifestation of God the Father. He is the image of the invisible God. Want to get to know God? Get to know Jesus. That’s why verse 4 of 1 Peter 2 starts with “as you come to Him”. Come to Jesus, get to know Him and thereby get to know God.

The fact that men reject Jesus, does not stop Jesus being who He is.

Now to me the most public figure in modern day that has rejected Jesus, is prof. Richard Dawkins, who of course wrote the book, “The God Delusion”. Dawkins spends a substantial part of the book denouncing and declaiming “religion” – both the organised stuff and personal faith. His view is that it’s all really a very bad thing and we’d be better off without it. However, what should be clear is that the pros and cons of religions (human beings’ attempts at relating to God or gods) have nothing to do with whether there is or is not a God.

It does not change the fact of Jesus being who He is. He said Himself who He is in John 14:6, when He said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

In the context of Dawkins book, in the 21st Century, we can perhaps view the meaning of Jesus’ statement as something closer to the following:
It is difficult (if not impossible) to intellectually prove or disprove the existence of God.
However, with Jesus, we’re on firmer ground. You just need to look at Him, see what He did, see what He said – look at the evidence – evidence that we are capable of understanding – indicating that He is the Son of God.
Clearly, if Jesus is the Son of God, then there is a God.
So, does Jesus then not provide us with a route to God (or, to paraphrase John 14.6. a way to the Father)?

That is why Jesus is precious to God, because through Jesus, we can come to Father – we can get to know Father and His heart that is justice for the nations, that is not breaking a bruised reed, or snubbing out a smouldering wick. His faithfulness will bring justice; he opens the eyes of the blind, sets the captives free, brings light to the darkness and all are welcome to come to Him because they can come through Jesus.

Jesus is precious to God. He is of value, not to be treated carelessly; he is the beloved of God.

Jesus: Precious to the church

The second thing is that Jesus is precious to the church.

Verses 5 & 6 – “you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in scripture it says: See I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame”

There are many illustrations for church used in scripture and Peter uses the illustration of a building that is living. It’s not literally stones held together by bricks and mortar but is made up to living stones (believers) that are built into a spiritual house (the church)

Now this is important, listen to this, the first thing that Peter says in verse 5, is that in telling us that Jesus is precious to God, God also sees us as precious. We are part of His body, the church. Christ is the living Stone (capital S) and we are living stones (small s). Jesus is precious to God and we are precious to God as living Stones. But there is a difference in role – as verse 6 goes onto explain, Jesus is the chosen and precious cornerstone.

Now in relation to a building, as I am sure you are aware, the cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

And so we see just how important it is for the church globally and locally to be based on the cornerstone of Christ. Because on that basis the entire structure and position of the church is determined.

We all know the story Jesus told of the wise and foolish builders – where the structure that was built on sand fell down when the storms came but the structure built on the rock stood firm. And Christ is that rock on which the entire structure of the church is build upon. And if this church is not building on the foundation of Christ, then what are we doing? What are we building? Because the structure being built needs to be for something does it not?

So what is this structure of church meant to do as living stones (small s) together based on the living Stone (capital S) who is also the cornerstone? What is the structure of the church meant to do? Well according to verse 5 of 1 Peter 2 it is to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.

And what is the spiritual sacrifice that Peter is talking about? Well Paul makes it clear in Romans 12v1 which says “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”

As both Peter and Paul indicate, the only way we can make acceptable sacrifices to God is through Jesus Christ. The only way we can please God is through Jesus Christ. The only way we can give true worship of God is through Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus Himself made the sacrifice that was acceptable to God. He is the one that paid the price. He is the one that bore your sin and mine that we might live lives holy and pleasing to God.

You see Jesus is precious to the church, as us together as living stones, not just because He is the cornerstone and therefore determines the entire structure but He is also the only way through which we, individually and collectively as a body of people, His church, can please God. Only through Christ can we be who God calls us to be – a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. Living stones, living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

But also Jesus is precious to the church, the people who believe in Jesus as their Saviour, because when we trust in Him as being able to accomplish that for us, we will never be put to shame, or as it says in Isaiah 28v16 where Peter is quoting form says – the one who trusts in him will never be dismayed. You see when you trust in Jesus, you have hope. Hope never disappoints – because, and this is where we move on the third and final point because Jesus is the finisher – He is the capstone.

Jesus: Precious to those who believe

Jesus is precious to those who believe because that which He started in us, He will complete.

He is precious to those who believe because there is hope. Hope of an eternity with God, eternal life received through Christ – and that hope is sure. That hope is true.

Every other hope we have in this life is wishful thinking but the hope we have in Christ that He will complete that which He started in us is promised. He will bring us to completion and forever we will be with Him.

He is precious to those who believe, but there is a challenge associated and with this I want to draw to a conclusion.
Let me ask you this morning – is He precious to you? He is precious to God, He is precious to the church, He is precious to those who believe, is He precious to you this morning.

Want to know the mark of how precious Jesus is to you?

One word – obedience.

And this is where people start to stumble. Because as verse 8 says Jesus makes some stumble, why? verse 8 – because they disobey the message. And that is expressed as the same thing as not believing in Jesus.

In understanding the reason why those who stumble over Jesus do so because they do not obey the message as being the same thing as those who don’t believe , so we understand that those who obey the message are those who believe and see Him as precious.

As Jesus Himself says, if you love me, you will obey my commands. How precious He is to us is determined by our obedience to what Jesus says in His word.

God has made the way for us to have a relationship with him – not a religion with him – religion is no more than human beings’ attempts at relating to God or gods. But I am not talking about us relating to God – I’m talking about God relating to us and that is manifest in God sending Jesus. Jesus is precious to God because God wants himself to be known by us, such is His love for us – he wants to have a relationship with us and so he sent Jesus.

But Jesus is not just the gateway to the Father, he is also the foundation for us to be a living stone in his church – together with all the other living stones – to be people that worship Him, to live for him, to obey him. He has even provided hope of life eternal. He’s made all of that possible. Jesus has made it possible for us to live lives acceptable to God because Jesus himself made the acceptable sacrifice on the cross for us. He did it for us.

And then he asks us as individuals – in the light of how God views Jesus, as precious, how the church views Jesus, as precious – how do we view him? Is he precious only because of what He has laid on for us? Or is he precious because of how we respond to that – our belief in him makes us respond in obedience.

Is He precious to you this morning?

If He is, then will you willingly re-affirm your willingness to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him and to obey His commands because He is precious to you, knowing that we can only do it because of the sacrifice He made on the cross and has made available to us – all we need for life and godliness.

If you are struggling to believe, if you’re stumbling, then can I plead with you, come to Him. Come to Jesus because God Almighty wants to have a relationship with you to forgive you of all your sin and make the difference in your life – and He demonstrated His love for you through Jesus. He paid the price of your sin and He invites you through Jesus – He is the Way He is the Truth and He is the Life. Don’t reject Him this morning, accept Him and let Him become precious to you.

Jesus is precious to God. Jesus is precious to the church. Jesus is precious to those who believe. He is beloved. He is not to be treated carelessly. He is of great value. Precious Jesus, reveal to us this morning, just how precious you are that you may become more precious to us and for that to be expressed in our obedience to you.

Amen.