REMEMBERING THE RESURRECTION – I Corinthians 15:49-58

One of the realities of growing older is the increasing frequency of attending funerals.  Recently I laid to rest a sweet saint who was wonderfully celebrated by her family and many friends.  Seven month earlier we did the same for her husband.  Because parents are important to cohesion in a family, it is a difficult adjustment to lose both in a short period of time.  But, when the deceased have been faithful servants of God and wonderful examples of godliness, any funeral truly becomes a celebration.

Nothing lifts mourners out of the depths of sadness more than the marvelous declaration of Scripture by the Apostle Paul, who said, “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Cor. 5:6-7)  That blessed hope mitigates sorrow, helps to dry the tears and steers our thoughts from the downside of things to the heavenly.  We once sang with reason, “Face to face with Christ my Saviour,” which focus mitigates our sorrow and brings peace, comfort, joy and even anticipation.

Come to the Word of God for comfort and instruction.  In the very presence of death, Jesus made this profound and encouraging statement to the sisters and friends who mourned the death of Lazarus.  (John 11:23-26)  “Your brother shall rise again, . . . I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live, even if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  In the struggles and ups and downs of life, which all of us will face sooner or later, always remember the resurrection.

I.  REMEMBERING THE RESURRECTION GIVES COMFORT – I.  Thess. 4:16-18, which speaks of the Lord’s return with a voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God, calling us out of the grave or from this troubled earth, to meet Him in the air with all who have died in Christ Jesus, instructs us: “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”  In II Cor. we learn that our God is a God of comfort, enabling us, not just to be comforted, but to comfort one another.

We who believe in Jesus, His life, death and resurrection, simply cannot face death without remembering the resurrection.  It tells us loud and clear that all of what we face down here is only temporary.  Our God wipes the tears from our eyes, the ache from our hearts, the loneliness that crushes our spirit, by reminding us:  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.”  All of this down here is truly temporary.  We shall see again all those who believe in Jesus and who have died.  They, and we, shall be free of those limitations that marks us down here.  All who are in Christ Jesus shall rise from the dead one day with new bodies, eternally united with soul and spirit, to the glory of God.  Remember the resurrection and be comforted.

II.  REMEMBERING THE RESURRECTION GIVES HOPE

The Apostle Paul was not a follower when Christ died and rose again, but he learned of it from those who were witnesses.  In I. Cor. 15, he wrote a strong affirmation and explanation of the resurrection of Christ and us and the great hope it gives to us who believe.  He said, “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  In that amazing chapter he declares to us that the disciples and 500 eye witnesses gave testimony of His resurrection.  He lives!  He truly lives and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, interceding on our behalf.  We have hope!

No matter where you are or what you face, young and old alike, be it pressure or blessing, light or darkness, good or evil, life or death, war or peace, health or sickness, you have hope.  Remembering the resurrection gives us hope!

III.  REMEMBERING THE RESURRECTION GIVES US MOTIVATION

The writer to the Hebrews put it like this:  “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   We have an Example and an Advocate in the heavens – the Son of the Majesty on high!  But, not only is He there with the Almighty, by His Holy Spirit He is in us who believe.  We are the habitation of God, the Lord of the universe, by the Holy Spirit.

What could be more motivating to faith, to holiness, to service, to perseverance, to prayer, to keeping the whole armour of God well placed, to death to self and its hindering trappings!   What meaning this gives to our role on earth as ambassadors of the Most High and His eternal kingdom!

IV.  REMEMBERING THE RESURRECTION GIVES US THE ASSURANCE OF VICTORY

It has been encouragingly and wisely said, “We have read the last chapter, and we win!”  It may not always seem like it now.  Cemeteries doting the countryside in every city and town shout at us their seeming victory.  But, not so!  Because of Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection, the Scriptures declare, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death where is your sting? . . . Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Neither the world, nor the flesh or the devil should have the last word, or any word, in our life, our battles, our service, our hearts, minds or spirit.  Jesus is Victor.  We are His.  And He is alive in us by the Holy Spirit.  Stand, beloved, stand strong!   Remember the resurrection. We once sang with good reason these words of hope and victory:

Face to face with Christ, my Saviour, face to face, what will it be,

When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ, who died for me.

What rejoicing in His presence when are banished grief and pain,

When the crooked ways are straightened, and the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face!  Oh, blissful moment!  Face to face, to see and know!

Face to face with My Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loved me so.

Death is not a stranger to any one of us.  Until Jesus comes again we shall all die.  But never forget, remembering the resurrection of our Saviour and Lord gives comfort, hope, motivation and victory.    Death has lost its sting!

 

 

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GLORIFYING GOD – I Peter 2:11-20

The glory days of Great Britain as a world power are long gone, but it was revived for a couple of weeks during the recent Olympics. British flags and British pride were everywhere to be seen. The red, white and blue were on extravagant display as clothing, lights, fireworks, decorations and gizmos of all kinds. Britain had the attention of the whole world! A smattering of past glory was on full and impressive display!

It is our duty as Christians, God’s possession, to glorify God by excellent, godly behaviour. In word and deed, in attitude and action we must consistently display the banner of truth and righteousness under which we live as followers of the Lord Jesus. We must wear our colours with dignity, honour and courage.

One of the terrible indictments of modern Christianity is the charge that many of us are so much like the rest of society that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between the believer and the non-believer. Hear the instructions of I Peter 2:11-12. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Keep your behaviour excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

When we remember who we are as believers our role is clear. “We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (verse 9)

The challenge as those possessed of God is, how do we proclaim the excellences of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light? Especially when the world in which we live is increasingly indifferent or hostile toward us. How do we display Him in a world like ours when we are ruled by governments that either deny or change Christian principles that once guided society? Sometimes those changes intrude on personal, God-given rights or reject God’s authority altogether. How do we respond in work situations where we are pulled between employers, management, union bosses and powerful self-interests? Finally, how do we live in the home where authority is sometimes misapplied, is weak or absent altogether? What does one do when challenged by conflicting interests of pride, selfishness, self-preservation, harsh authoritarianism or strident feminism?

If we think these issues are just 21st century problems about which the Bible has little or nothing to say, then we must think again. Peter’s letter indicates that 1st century people faced similar issues. Biblical teaching on human behaviour, certainly in relationship to authority structure, is truly at odds with much modern thinking. Few in our secularized society would agree with Peter’s instructions to believers. It is hard in these matters for many to agree with the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

Because of who we are in Christ Jesus, “a possession of God”; how do we live among the Gentiles, the unbelievers who surround us? How do we show them the excellences of our God and His ways so that He is glorified? It is important to understand that the things Peter mentions are presented in the context of the Christian’s behaviour among non-believers. If he was writing to believers alone, perhaps he would have more to say. But he here gives three scenarios, common to the life of every one of us – our civic duty, our work world and our home. But, first, understand –

I. THE FLESHLY LUSTS FROM WHICH WE ARE TO ABSTAIN BECAUSE THEY WAR AGAINST THE SOUL AND HINDER OUR TESTIMONY BEFORE THE WORLD- Verse 11

A. The fleshly lusts – The Apostle Paul is good at making lists that are very helpful to inform us what our walk with God must look like. In Galatians 5:19-21 he lists the works of the flesh: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. . .” He leaves it open-ended probably because he knows that human ingenuity and depravity will come up with endless new expressions of evil. Peter tells us what fleshly lusts do to us –

B. They war against the soul – Do not be so foolish as to think these things are just minor behavioral issues common to most of us one way or another. That they are no big deal, really. Peter says, they “war against the soul!” These things, so terribly common in our day and regularly displayed in literature, theatre and news reports, are like a destroying cancer sucking the spiritual life and strength out of all who participate in them. They dishonour God and ruin our testimony among those who do not believe. All of us know ample stories of this so I do not need to say more. Never forget that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers of darkness.” We need the whole armour of God to stand against all the wiles of the devil and his use of fleshly lusts.

Peter does not expand on the fleshly lusts (desires) because he has something more important to say. He talks about excellent behaviour that glorifies God in three common areas where unbelievers can easily observe us who claim to follow Christ Jesus.

II. WHAT ARE THE EXPRESSIONS OF EXCELLENT BEHAVIOUR AMONG UNBELIEVERS THAT MUST MARK THE LIFE OF A BELIEVER? (I Peter 2:12-3:7)

Excellent behaviour for the believer requires submission to authority. I long ago learned that the word “submission” is loaded! Because of negative connotations through its misuse, it upsets some people. But, it is a biblical word and we neglect it at our peril. No one can be a true follower of Christ without bowing the knee to His Lordship. God is the Sovereign Lord of the universe and the very essence of sin against Him is rebellion and disobedience, which is the opposite to submission. Without proper submission to authority society suffers disorder and strife. Peter gives us three scenarios where this submission applies in human affairs – as citizens, as workers and in family. He speaks of –

A. CIVIL AUTHORITY – Verses 12-17 – Hear his words: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honour all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the king.”

Our testimony in a society of unbelievers is to include our obedience to the rules set by government. We pay our taxes; we obey the laws; we honour constituted authority – government, police, the courts – whatever the Constitution or community by-laws require. Thankfully, in this land we are blessed with wonderful freedoms: freedom to vote; freedom of speech, freedom to appeal or to express conscientious objection. These are valuable freedoms, unique in our world compared to many places. We must be grateful to our forefathers for this and protect them with diligence for they are under threat. Others around us must see this submission in our respect for, and adherence to, constituted authority! Our society does not seem to understand that rights and privileges must be mitigated by responsibility! It is part of our testimony to put these things together – and to live them! It is how we can glorify God before our peers.

Now, there is an exception that is important and holds for all three scenarios Peter describes. “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:19) That must be applied carefully and in balance with all the teachings of Scripture. Personal feelings of comfort, protection or ambition, all that is covered by death to self, must be disallowed. Remember, the glory of God and our testimony among unbelievers is the issue at stake. Remember, too, Peter’s admonition (verse 16), “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God.”

I had some work done on our car and a neighbour kindly took me to pick it up. He suggested I offer cash for the work and thereby avoid the taxes. I responded I could not do that for it would be dishonest. That led to an interesting conversation. Days later, with another neighbour, my kind friend remarked, “This guy refused a discount because he wanted to pay the taxes!” They are watching us! Be on your guard – for the glory of God! The second scenario is –

B. EMPLOYER AUTHORITY – Verses 18-20 – “Servants, (think employees in our culture) be submissive to your masters (employers) with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favour, if for the sake of conscience toward God, a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favour with God.”

Allow the reasonable suggestion that the principle here, referring to servants, refers just as rightly to all those in our culture who work for others – which is the vast majority of us. We work for those who pay us – not for ourselves nor for a union – but for the employer and to those he has assigned to manage us! Our duty under God is to submit to company rules and to give respect and loyalty to our employer – even if it should include some suffering. First we please God, then our employer and next, if possible, our fellow workers. Peter declares such behaviour finds favour with God. (verses 19-20) Again, thank God, government, good companies and unions for those labour rules which protect us from abuse. Use them wisely. Be grateful for the privilege of changing jobs, if necessary or possible. But submit to the obligations of your employer!

We are also instructed to distinguish between harsh treatment because of our faults and that which is unjust. Accept rebuke for your faults and do what you can to correct them. Even the unjust treatment is to be patiently endured when it finds favour with God. Obviously, our patient endurance is part of our good testimony and gives glory to God. These are very interesting instructions which are not commonly practised these days where greed, arrogance, jealousy, indifference and union bosses rule. Similar instructions as these are given in I Timothy 6 and Titus 2.

We can do these things because we believe “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He is the Sovereign Lord of the universe and a Protector of all who are His. Now, I am not going to take the time to balance this with statements of Scripture regarding the obligations of a Christian employer. The little New Testament letter, Philemon, gives some insight as does Colossians 4 and Ephesians 6.

The third scenario Peter gives regarding how to glorify God before unbelievers refers to families, or in other words in –

C. THE HOME – (3:1-7) Hear again the Word of God: “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behaviour. And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

You will find a comparable passage to this, though more detailed, in Ephesians 5, (and other places) with important added instructions to the husband. Not only do these Scriptures underline the distinction of roles as male and female in marriage, but it gives us strong motivation to fulfill them because it is a winning work! Even an unbelieving husband is won by such behaviour, as verse 2-4, state. And, most of all, God is glorified for it is precious to Him.

Here an important word is given to a husband! (verse 7) “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honour as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” The role of man as an authority figure is to be sensitive, understanding, caring, and helpful. To fail in this is to hinder his access to God in prayer – a crippling judgment! Nothing is said here about the children but the example of the parents in this regard is critical to their upbringing and to how they see their future roles.

I remind you again of why Peter uses these three scenarios – “Keep your behaviour excellent among the Gentiles (unbelievers), so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Our example of submission to government authorities, our employer and at home is part of our good testimony to those around us so that God is glorified. These are the primary, common places where our lives intersect the lives of our fellow countrymen, peers, neighbours, friends and family. These are the places where excellent behaviour will bear fruit to the glory of God. These are the important areas where our public testimony is best observed.

I well know that these things raise some questions and sometimes negative reactions. One person said to me, “I’m no floor mat! No one is going to walk on me!” I hope not, but that is not the point for one who has died to self and is alive to God. Do you understand what Paul is saying when he wrote to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”? If we have learned to submit to God in humble obedience and worshipful adoration then submission to others as required should be little problem. We must learn that in humble, obedient submission to Him.

Did you notice what Peter wrote in the middle of these three scenarios he gives? (2:21-25) “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were straying like sheep, but now you have been returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Beloved, just follow His example. Submit to Him. He will take care of us. He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us for this and everything else to which we have been called as His chosen people.

As possessions of God we can do as Jesus did in our little sphere of influence. Thus God will be glorified and the power of the gospel to transform lives will be clearly evident. Such holy living will leave an impression, you can be sure! Jesus died to make us just like Him. Let us yield unreservedly to the control of the Holy Spirit and to the faithful demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit. Most of this is lost today because we are too much like our world and not enough like our Lord. Our testimony and the glory of God in our lost society depends on these things.

Let our civic duties, our business affairs and our home behaviour clearly say, “I am a follower of Jesus, to the glory of God and the good of our hurting world.”

A POSSESSION OF GOD – I Peter 2:4-10

Years ago a church I served had a saintly elder who significantly illustrated what it means to be a possession of God. On the way to church one evening a young driver smashed into his car, killing his wife and seriously injuring him. After the emergency surgery, as I entered his room, he burst into tears, but said: ” Oh Pastor, praise God, she is with the Lord and not suffering.” I left that room, as did many others over the following week, ministered to by that wounded, suffering saint – a spiritual giant.

Weeks later, as he was responding to the doctor’s concern for his welfare, considering the trauma he had endured, the physician was so impressed by his attitude and words that he requested he be allowed to tape their conversation. The doctor explained, “My next patient has suffered nothing compared to you, but he is a bitter, angry man who is ruining his life and that of others. May I share your words with him? He needs to hear this!” That dear man knew who he was in Christ Jesus, and he continued doing things of great value to God and to others. He was God’s servant, a possession of God! Do not waste either your blessings or your sorrows. They are the evidences of God’s grace to you and His presence in you.

If we, who are followers of Christ, would think of ourselves in the same terms that God does what joy would be ours; what meaning life would take on as we fulfill our high calling in Christ Jesus. We are God’s possession! Let us live with the wonder of that, for the more we grow in salvation, tasting the kindness of the Lord, the more we will understand and appreciate our high calling and position in Christ Jesus. From our text, I Peter 2:8-10, I underline two things which will help us to see just who we are in Christ and what it means. Consider –
I. God’s view of the believer
II. God’s provision for the believer

It greatly helps to see ourselves as God sees us. It certainly will cure any inferiority complex we may have developed in spite of the fact that many see us as outsiders, maybe a bit strange. It should help us to stand strong, even when we feel alone, perhaps without the support of others, or struggling under some heavy, adverse circumstance. My observation is that some Christian youth at school, university, or entering a new career, fail to stand strong and true because they feel alone, overwhelmed, uncertain about who they are in Christ – unsure of what it means to be God’s possession.

The statistics of Christian youth whose faith and testimony collapses, once facing the reality of the world out there, is disappointing and concerning. Some estimate that it is about 70% who chuck their faith while at university, which is tragic. The Apostle Peter’s letter should help such to be strong, courageous, alert and faithful. It was written to hurting, ostracized people living in a hostile environment. If you are committed to God’s Word, meditating on it day and night, you will “not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scorner.” It is wise to memorize Psalm 1. So, what is –

I. GOD’S VIEW OF THE BELIEVER, HIS FOLLOWERS – vs. 9

Listen to these amazing words of the Apostle describing his first readers, and by the grace of God, we who believe. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” Peter was reminding those New Testament believers of Old Testament concepts. Many of them would be from Jerusalem; they grew up as children of Israel, thinking they were a special people, chosen by God – but now followers of Christ – and because of it considered outcasts by their peers. Peter will have none of that demeaning, discouraging and hurtful attitude! He informs them of who they are in Christ Jesus. It must have been a powerful word to them.

I remind you with these same words to consider who you are in Christ Jesus. Our world would like to make us feel like losers, religious nuts, out of step with real society. Think again, beloved! Revel in Peter’s words, given to him by the Holy Spirit, for they describe who we are in Christ. It is terrific, uplifting, wonderful! First, we are –

A. A CHOSEN RACE – How does one become part of any race of people? Well, obviously, by birth or sometimes by adoption. It is by the new birth that we are born into God’s family and thus made heirs of all of God’s purposes and blessings. That is why Jesus came, died, was buried and rose again. The follower of Christ is made to be part of a distinct race – God’s race, God’s family. That by itself is very significant, but he uses an adjective to further describe us – CHOSEN!

Marvel at this, beloved, God sought you out by the Holy Spirit and drew you to Himself. As the poet has put it, “the Hound of heaven chased you down the labyrinthine ways” to catch you while you were yet in your sins, to draw you into the arms of a loving, forgiving Saviour. Incredible! By the sovereign will and infinite grace of God Almighty we believed and became part of this chosen race – God’s redeemed children! Wonder at the gift of grace! Worship and serve Him with awe and humility.

But, never, ever let a hint of arrogance or superiority mark your words or demeanor. We were not chosen because we were special, and certainly not because we were deserving. “When we were yet in our sins Christ died for us.” Jesus said, “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they who are sick.” He came to call sinners to repentance. “All we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us have turned to our own way. God laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” These are scriptural statements, describing what we once were, till Jesus found us and we bowed low before Him!

There is no other way for us to explain how we were allowed to hear the gospel, nor why we responded to conviction, came to repentance and called upon Christ to save us – except to humbly acknowledge, we are chosen by God. Think on that, and marvel at it, for it is life transforming. But there is more –

B. WE ARE A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD We believe in the priesthood of all believers! A priest is someone who stands before God on behalf of men and before men on behalf of God. Yes, indeed, “there is only one God and one Mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ.” He is the only one Who can save us. (I Timothy 2) He is the only One who died to pay the penalty for our sin and He is the only One who can redeem us back to God. Nevertheless, and the thought should be nearly overwhelming to us, He has sent us, His chosen race, into the world to be His ambassadors, “as though God were entreating through us; (so) we beg you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:19-20) That is almost more than any of us can really understand. Put it under the riches of His grace.

When Jesus returned to His place in glory, He gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to guide us into all truth and through us to participate in His work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 14-16) Thus He told us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Matthew 28) That is our task until He comes again. We are to be as priests to one another and to our lost world.

It is an awesome role to be a priest, a spiritual servant of God to people. Our duty is to call them to Christ, the Saviour; to lead the way in humble repentance to the Holy of Holies; to portray before others in word and deed the beauty and sufficiency of Christ; to demonstrate submission to the authority of His Word and the richness of His grace – and the worth of all of that. That is precisely why He calls us to be “holy as He is holy.” (I Peter 1)

Ah, but I neglected the adjective – royal. We are a “royal priesthood” To put it simply, we are king’s kids! We belong to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We are here acting on His behalf among people who for the most part have little idea that they are living in rebellion against the Lord of the universe. Beloved, behave like royalty! We are not our own but bought with a price; paid for by the King of kings!

Let me make a disclaimer. Unfortunately, in recent times we have not had many good illustrations of what it means to be royalty, other than the Queen and her husband; except for this: most do seem to know they are to serve, to behave in public and to carry the standard of the nation they represent. Unfortunately, most are a disaster.

Well, we are to be like Jesus, Son of the Most High God, Sovereign Lord of the universe, Creator and Sustainer of all that is. He could take a towel and wash the feet of His followers. He told them not to be as those who wish to lord it over others, but rather to be a servant, ministering to human need and fulfilling the divine will. Hold in high regard your calling as a priest of God, a royal priest, representing the King and His kingdom. Minister to your family, friends, neighbours and associates in all the circumstances of life. Never let down the standard of your King. Should you fail, get on your face before God and repent quickly and correctly. Keep your kingly robes untarnished by the sordid things of this world. The third thing Peter said is –

C. WE ARE A HOLY NATION – With instant access to world news we learn every day that much of the world is a wicked, hurtful mess: violence, wars, murders, thievery, immorality, greed, political corruption, sickness, man-made and natural disasters, pollution, family disintegration, poverty and indifference. The list could go on and on. It is both frustrating and discouraging. It makes our role as a royal priesthood highly demanding, overwhelming!

But, something else must profoundly influence and impress us! This world is not out real home. God sees His people, the followers of Jesus, as a holy nation. Catch a vision of who we are in Christ Jesus – we are a holy nation! All across the world, in every nation on earth, among most of the people on earth (unfortunately not yet all.) God has a people for His name’s sake. Together we are His holy nation. Our chief allegiance is to Him. Our first and most important citizenship is the kingdom of God. Our passport is marked with a cross and stained with holy blood. Our priority marching orders come from the throne room of God, taught by the authority and truth of His Word. If we could but get hold of this reality, we would live more righteously. Holiness would be imperative for we would realize that down here we have no abiding city, no place of permanent residency. Rather, we belong to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10) As transient citizens of this world we must live as lights in a dark place – in the world but not of it! (John 17)

This is no allusion or fantasy, dear saints. This is what we are all about ultimately. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Let us think it and live it so others see it. No one should truly understand us who does not know Who and Whose we are. There is one more vital thing to consider:

II. GOD’S PROVISION FOR THE BELIEVER – vss. 9-10

You are “a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Listening to Peter’s words we have a right to ask, “How in the world am I, are we, to be such a people? How do we fulfill such an incredible calling? How do we live up to such a high standard? The bad news is, we cannot! The good news is, God can, and God does!. That is why Jesus came, lived, died and rose again! He did it to redeem us back into God’s will, lost to us by our first father’s fall into sin. Jesus has become our justification, giving us a right standing before a holy God. He came to turn us into living stones out of which He can build a spiritual house, His body – something He could possess! Beloved, He possesses His people! He lives in us who believe. That is why the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians (I – 6:19) “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that your are not your own, you are bought with a price, THEREFORE, glorify God in your body.”

It is why Paul wrote to the Roman believers (12:1-2) “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Hear it again with amazement, faith, humility, yieldedness and profound appreciation “We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” What an amazing calling and what a sufficient enabling for it!

But, you must first of all belong to Jesus – the One who purchased all of this for us by dying on a cross, taking on Himself our sin, paying its penalty and thus restoring us to the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Do you belong to Him? If not, call upon His name in faith and repentance for He will save you and bring you into His family to be joint heirs of God’s holy purpose for you.

HINDERANCES TO LIFE IN CHRIST – I Peter 2:1-8

The living and abiding Word of God spoken of in I Peter 1 brings much benefit to the follower of Christ. The benefits include the promise of forgiveness of sin, instructions on how to live a holy life, guidance and wisdom for the journey, protection against the attacks of the devil, and assurance of victory and the hope of heaven. But just as there are these wonderful benefits which encourage and guide us, so too, we must grapple with hindrances to the fullness of life in Christ. What can stop the beneficial flow of God’s Word and work in our lives? What are these hindrances and how do we deal with them? It is a most unhappy truth that some saints who should be demonstrating the beauty and fullness of life in Christ are instead pitiful examples of a pain in the neck. Too often saints cripple their own testimony, and that of others, by being weak, negative, miserable, grouchy, self-centered, angry, etc., etc. We must correct such carnal behaviour if we are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I Peter 2:1-8 warns us about hindrances that stop us and others from tasting the kindness of God and thus growth in the way of salvation. God’s Word, which is truth, imperishable seed, living, abiding and nourishing like pure milk, is given to teach us and others through us the ways and kindness of God. It alerts us to, and frees us from, the awfulness of sin by pointing us to Jesus’ work of forgiveness and cleansing. It instructs us to depend upon the indwelling Holy Spirit who equips us for kingdom living and building. It encourages and motivates us with the sure hope of heaven.

Clearly, the Bible teaches a much larger purpose for salvation than merely to get us out of hell and into heaven. It is to edify us and others, to build us up to be a wholesome, holy habitation of God, to perfect all the designs of God in us for which we were created, chosen and redeemed. It is a tragedy that many believers never grow past the point of their initial conversion. They allow the hindrances to growth to stop the free flow of the cleansing water of the Word and the nurturing, satisfying life in the Spirit to thrive in them. Removing those hindrances allows the beauty of Jesus to increasingly mark our character, personality, attitudes and actions. Spiritual growth is a goal of the saints!

I. HINDRANCES TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH

I turned on our kitchen tap one day and was surprised no water flowed. My first thought was that it was an infrastructure problem somewhere outside. In fact, the problem was that accumulated dirt in the system had plugged the tap filter disallowing the water to flow. The Apostle Peter lists five things that similarly hinder spiritual growth. Actually they may seem inconsequential to most of us in terms of the “bigger” sins of life, but just as the Proverb warns, “The little foxes spoil the vine.”

Remember, the people to whom Peter was writing had been driven out of their homeland by persecution. Maybe it was their family or neighbours or the political/religious leaders who had ganged up on them to the point they had to leave. Whoever, or whatever, they became aliens, scattered to other countries (1:1), ousted from home, livelihood, family, friends, the familiar. Now, they had to start over again in a strange land with a new language and a different culture. Think of the trauma involved! Think, also, of how this list of hindrances would sound to them, or even apply to them, in those circumstances. Peter, alerted by the Spirit of God to their needs, wrote: (2:1)

“Therefore,” (That is, in view of what has been written previously) “putting aside all –
1. Malice – all badness, evil intention, viciousness, vengeance, resentment, bitterness
2. Guile – all snares, deceit, craftiness, subtlety, conniving
3. Hypocrisy – play acting, two-facedness, saying one thing while thinking another
4. Envy – feelings of displeasure or hurt because others prosper, have advantages beyond you,
leaving you wanting what others have or you once had
5. Slander – finding fault, spreading criticism or making false accusations, insinuating negative
thoughts about another.

Obviously, Peter was concerned that those saints might be strongly tempted to think evil thoughts about those who had put them in such difficult circumstances. He feared that they would become angry and bitter, lose their peace and thus destroy their testimony. So he warns these mistreated saints to rid themselves of such feelings so that, “like newborn babes, (with their untainted innocence) they can long for the pure milk of the word in order to grow in respect of salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (verse 2)

One of the amazing truths of God’s saving grace (the kindness of the Lord.) is that none of us deserves it. “When we were yet in our sin Christ died for us.” (Romans 5) If we understand that, we will be very slow to react to or accuse others who sin. After all we should understand them. Thus, we must be alert to this list Peter gives of inward, attitudinal sins that hinder the true appreciation and application of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness granted to us. Extending the same kindness and grace to others should be easy.

Do you see why the Psalmist prayed, “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me . . . Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14)

The hindering sins Peter lists are mostly inward. That makes them difficult to discern and easy to hide because they are heart-issues, attitudinal, or motivational. Worse, they can be easy to justify because of circumstances and/or the mean, unfair actions of others. Nevertheless, they are hindrances to spiritual growth, vine spoilers! We must be rid of them, so root them out! “How”, you ask?
I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a life-saver, a mind-healer, that verse is! One of the purposes of the communion service is to force us to do this!

If you cannot discern what may be hindering your joy and freedom in Christ or your appreciation of God’s kindness to you, then go to Psalm 139:23-24 and sincerely pray: “Search me, O God and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

Recently, a national news journalist, answering questions about his assessment of world conditions, made this statement: “We are living in dangerous times, but I fear we are unaware of it.” He is right for war-like things happening in various places, economic uncertainty, environmental disasters, a variety of conditions leading to civil unrest and moral deviation even in the Western world, all warn of impending divine judgment. The lack of prophetic voices is most concerning, as is the blazè attitudes of most in political authority. Beloved, our world desperately needs to see the followers of Christ free of these hindrances. These five things and others like them are hindering those around us from hearing the voice of God. Too often our supposedly simple faults are deafening needy people so they do not discern the warnings of God of coming judgment, or their need of repentance. They do not see us as lights in a dark world, showing the way to God, because they see the same bad attitudes in us that mark them. Deal with the hindrances! Next, Peter talks about –

II. THE BENEFITS OF SALVATION – 2:4-5

What important benefits are ours in salvation, because of the kindness of our Lord toward us. Peter, taught of the Spirit, said, “And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” These verses give us a mental picture of what God wants and plans for us as the objects and recipients of His so great salvation.

A. OUR PRIVILEGE– (verse 4) is to come to Jesus to humbly, obediently enlist in His service, to cooperate with His work. Jesus, to whom we are privileged to come, is called “a living stone.” He came to build something vital and enduring, the Church of Jesus Christ, and that remains His ongoing work. Our privilege is to be part of His work force on earth. God, the Father, delights in this for His Son is called, “choice and precious in the sight of God.” Our access to God is through Him. He calls and enables us to be part of His holy purpose to build something of eternal value, the Church, the Body or habitation, of Christ.

This is important for us to know for with all its ups and downs, weaknesses and failures, popularity or obscurity, authority or lack of it, we must never put down the “real” Church. It is God’s spiritual house! And, it does not have a denominational name. With all that happens inside and out of the various denominations, we must understand that God will always have a remnant, called by Him, true to that calling, upholding His Word and holding to His promises. That Church will prevail. It is not irrelevant or pointless and it is certainly not finished! That cannot happen for the “living stone, Jesus Christ, is its Corner Stone, THE foundation stone, choice and precious! Neither the gates of hell nor the failures of men can prevail against the true Church of Jesus Christ. It is His body, His dwelling place! Do not give up on it! God knows how to separate the sheep from the goats. Just be sure you are a sheep! Consider now –

B. OUR VITAL ROLE – verse 5 As followers of Christ Jesus, our vital role down here until Jesus comes again is to work with Him in building a spiritual house, God’s kingdom on earth. We are preparing a place for a “holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” That is what the real Church is about. We, who faithfully follow Jesus are part of that priesthood, showing the world the saving grace of God brought to mankind through Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary. “He died the Just for the unjust to bring us to God.” A pure life, filled with and demonstrating the beauty of Jesus, is our ministry to this hurting, sin drenched world. No, it will not be finished until Jesus comes again, but it is in progress now and our role in it is essential.

C. THE PROMISE – 2:6-8 Listen to the promise! “For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone. And he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.’ This precious value, then, is for all who believe.” (Hallelujah!) Do you understand the importance of Jesus as the corner stone? In earlier construction days the corner stone was to be laid with great care and precision because it was the first one. All the others had to be aligned to it if the building was to be square, the walls straight, the structure balanced and strong. It was vital to the well being of the whole structure. It was often laid with ceremony for it was foundational to the whole. Today we do it merely for celebration and decoration for it has little importance.

As God’s children, our life, faith, character, works and future must be aligned with the person of Jesus Christ, the living Word of God. If He is less than our all in all our life will be out of whack! Crooked! Weak! Tottering! Even ugly! Is it not a tragedy that so few saints truly align their lives to Jesus and to His Word and thus do not represent well the beauty of Jesus in its fullness?

Notice what verses 7 and 8 say: “But for those who disbelieve, the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone, and, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,’ for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were appointed.” What a fearful verse!

Christ will be either the Corner Stone or a Rock of offense, a stone of stumbling! We, who believe, must demonstrate in all we are and do the life and strength of His priestly work as the corner stone so others see that a true and effective life is being built because we belong to Him. Or, sadly, we must be a stumbling block and a rock of offense to those who do not believe. Not everyone will like us for our lives must be a rebuke to all that is wrong. What a calling! What an obligation! What a mixed result – either exhilarating or crushing, true faith in Jesus being the only hope.

This blessed hope and responsibility is ours because Jesus died that we and all who will believe might live. Humbly, gratefully and dependently come to Him with profound appreciation, praise and yieldedness. Remove all hindrances! Commit yourself to Him and to the task He left us to do until He comes again to perfect once and for all what He started.

THE LIVING WORD OF GOD – I Peter 1:22-2:3

It is the unrelenting strategy of the devil to destroy, or at least weaken, the church.  He does everything in his power to detract the saints from dependence upon, and obedience to, the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  His methods seem to be to create questions and doubts about the veracity, relevance and meaning of Scripture.  He entices the church to be more excited about programming than preaching; or to make preaching more about psychology than scriptural mandates, or more entertaining than enlightening.  Social justice has become more appealing than evangelism and evangelism more appealing than holiness. The reverse of what it should be.

One of the obvious changes in many churches is that few bring their Bibles.  The use of electronic devices has made it unnecessary to look up verses, thus losing the important familiarity that comes from tracking things through the pages of Scripture, noting the place and context.  That prohibits the markings or personal notes that stimulate and guide devotional reading or development later on.

I Peter 1:22-23 gives us important instruction: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”  John 1:1 tells us Christ is that Word!  He embodies it, which makes the written word all that more important.

Nothing should motive us to devote ourselves to reading, understanding, meditating on and obeying the Word of God more than this: it is living and abiding!   It speaks to the human condition.  It nurtures the human spirit, corrects human ills and directs human behaviour.  Under the power of the Holy Spirit it turns sinners into saints and equips us for life and godliness, ministry and eternity.

If we are to stand strong in these present, evil days, and if we are to remain strong until Jesus comes, we must feed our souls on the Word of God (the Bread of life) and hide it in our hearts so we will not sin.  We need to prove its truths by both faith and experience.  We need to encourage one another with the Word lest any of us should fall away or be deceived.  We need to share its truths with others so they can be saved from the wrath which is to come and the painful by-products of disobedience which all of us have experienced and regularly witness.

I.  WHAT IS THE WORD OF GOD?   Why is it so important?

A.  IT IS TRUTH – Verse 22 commends the readers for their “obedience to the truth.”  It is immensely directive and comforting to me to know that as I open my Bible each morning, I hold in my hands truth and can bathe my mind with it.  From there it infiltrates my spirit, attitudes, actions and words.  It teaches me God’s will and ways in my varied circumstances.  My vital relationship to God as Owner/Manager is clearly spelled out on its pages, so I know Who is in charge and what I must do about it.

Because the Word of God is truth we learn from it how to be God’s man or woman.  And though our roles are not the same they are equally important.  In the Bible we learn about soul-care, husband-wife relationship, rearing children, neighborhood and friendship relations, moral behaviour, work ethics, wisdom development, money management, discernment of good and evil, physical care, etc., etc.

The Bible is life’s manual.  Its knowledge and application are critical to all we do.  Memorize Psalm 1 to remind yourself of its value.  If you can’t memorize Psalm 119 (176 verses!), at least read it regularly with meditation.  Psalm 19 will also help as do all of the Proverbs.  But, may I add this word of caution: live and speak the Bible, but do not push it down people’s throats.  We do not need to defend the Bible; we must live it!  It is God’s Word and He is more than capable of defending what is His.  It can stand on its own – and has for thousands of years!

A. W. Tozer once said, “I’d just as soon defend a tiger as try to defend the Word of God.” He was right. The Bible stands on it own. Oh, how powerful it becomes when it is demonstrated in the lives of God’s people through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. First, it is truth and second –

B. IT IS IMPERISHABLE SEED – Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” In another place He said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the law to fail.” (Matthew 5) Those are powerful and instructive words! There is not another thing on earth about which we can make such a claim. God’s Word is imperishable seed! A seed is something that has within it ongoing life – the multiplication of life!

God said this to the prophet Isaiah: (Isaiah 55:10-11) “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding to the matter for which I sent it.”

Do you see how important it is to read, hear and speak God’s Word? You, dear saint, who teaches children’s or youth classes or who teach or attend study groups are doing a valuable work. When you share God’s Word, whether at home or anywhere, you are sowing imperishable seed in another’s life. It will never pass away nor return empty. Even when it seems to be in vain, do not give up, because God doesn’t!

I like the old story of a mother who believed with all her heart that the truths she planted in the heart of her wayward son would bear fruit. He could not resist God forever even when he fled her influence. Each night she placed a lit candle in her window – a symbol to her son that she was waiting for him to return, whenever that might be. He did return, seeking forgiveness and acceptance. A burning candle told him he would be welcomed home. God’s word is imperishable. It is light to our pathway. “Train up a child in the way which he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” God’s Word will do its work!

C. IT IS LIVING AND ABIDING (Vs. 23) – One of the most ridiculous fads imaginable of the 70’s was the pet stone. People were paying $3-$5.00 for a stone, with a certificate extolling its virtues. It said things such as: it neither moves nor makes a noise; it does not eat or make a mess; it does not demand time or attention. Wonderful!! But, what the certificate did not say was that it was dead – it had no life!!

Beloved, the Word of God is alive, uniquely and wonderfully so. Don’t let it sit on some shelf collecting dust! People ask, “How can it be God’s Word when it seems to say different things to different people, even within the Christian faith?” Because it is alive! It responds to mankind’s varied needs in an intimate and personal way. Of course, that has its limitations which false teachers abuse and some people ignorant of the whole assume or misinterpret. But that is discerned and corrected when the whole is taken into account. The Spirit of God will correct the errors of the sincere and diligent seeker. The reality is, God speaks to us through His Word. Endless books, countless stories, marvelous experiences declare it. All of us yielded to God can give testimony to it.

Over and over again when I have needed to make a decision, sometimes life changing decisions, I have relied on Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord will all your heart; do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” It has become a favorite promise of mine.

Ah, but not only is God’s Word living, it is abiding. It stays with us. Jesus told His disciples they did not need to fear even though they would be brought before kings to give a reason for the hope they held and taught. He promised that when they opened their mouths in testimony to Him the Holy Spirit would give them words to speak, for He would bring to remembrance all the things He had taught them. (Luke 21)

Hide God’s Word in your heart and mind; and in the minds of your children. It will bear fruit in your life and in theirs, because it is living and abiding. When I attended a private, Christian high school they had an unusual corrective for delinquent behaviour – the memorization of Scripture. Perhaps it was not the best idea for some, but it surely worked for me. I humbly confess that I went through their entire memorization program in less than three years. After that I dug ditches! Both correctives were beneficial! But, what a benefit to have memorized hundreds of verses. I should not say it, but in that case, youthful “crimes” did pay off for me! To this day it helps me for those verses did not return void. Next,

D. IT IS PURE MILK (2:2) – Do you remember the days of cheap powdered milk? Well, my frugal wife tried it on our three boys and me. She knew how to stretch a lowly pastor’s salary. But it resulted in major rebellion from all of us boys. She even tried to improve it by mixing powder and real milk. It did not work either. To this day not even 1% milk works for me. We wanted the real thing! As straight from the cow as the law would allow. No substitutes. And that goes for butter, too.

That is even biblical for the Word of God is like pure milk. Like pure milk, it satisfies our spiritual hunger with wonderful nutrients and is good to the taste. It fosters spiritual growth, protective strength, excellent guidance and noble disciplines. “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”

For years I backed away from much of the more modern evangelical literature, including commentaries. They seemed to distract or hinder me from sitting patiently at God’s feet to learn from Him. To this day I am indifferent to most daily devotionals because they tend to get in the way of the discipline of hearing His Word under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit Who has promised to guide us into all truth.

Carefully, regularly reading through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, with a heart and ear open to the Holy Spirit, keeps us spiritually informed, balanced and healthy. The theological fads or popular thinking become less and less palatable when you have fed on the real thing. The regurgitated writings of others become less necessary or attractive. Yes, we need to read what godly thinkers have learned so we can benefit from their experience and insights. But we are to be like the Bereans who listened to the Apostle Paul and then “searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether the things he said were so.” (Acts 17)

If you seek spiritual maturity get into the Word of God with the daily discipline of a fixed time, a scheduled reading and a prayerful commitment to obedience. Let it feed your soul, strengthen your faith, stretch your mind, enlarge your vision, invigorate your life, correct your thinking and guide your ways.

II. WHAT ARE WE TO DO WITH THIS INFORMATION ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD?

There are three things stated in these verses that we must do in response to all of this:

A. BELIEVE IT – vs. 21
Believe God and believe His Word. They go hand in hand. Let God be true and every man (all contrary teaching) a liar.

B. OBEY IT – vs. 22 Obedience to the truth purifies our souls for a sincere love of the brethren. Love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and results in love for one another. Love for God and others is born in obedience. Love is not a vain or fickle emotion but a trained and chosen response to truth. Don’t love merely because you want to, or have to, or even because someone is loveable but because you obey God’s truth! Love is heaven’s moisture, making good things grow.

C. LONG FOR IT – 2:2 – The Word of God is pure milk – long for it! Desire it. Long for its nourishment, its strengthening power, its teaching, guidance and insights into God. Long for its insights into our own heart and soul and its insights into the world in which we, and those around us, live. Long for its hope and comfort, its exposure and rebuke of sin. Let it be a light to our feet and a lamp to our pathway. We must hide it away in our hearts so we rightly discern between good and evil, better and best. We must not let the culture persuade us or force us into its mold by neglecting the Word of God.

Beloved, the day is coming, maybe it is here already, when there will be a “famine, not a famine from bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the Word of the Lord. And the people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the Word of God, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12) That is increasingly describing the day in which we live. Beware.

Oh, fill your mind with the Word of God while you can. One day, it will be too late for that – and that day is hastening on. Understand the age in which we live and its limitations that are increasingly crowding in on us. Hold tightly and gratefully to the living and abiding Word of God. Allow the Holy Spirit to be your Teacher. Learn what that means. Prove the Word of God in daily experience so you have more than a head knowledge of its truths. It will protect and bless you and make you a blessing.

If none of this makes sense to you then you need to find Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and Lord. Humbly, repentantly call upon His Name and He will save you, give you His Holy Spirit and guide you into all truth.

REDEEMED – PROCLAIM IT! – I Peter 1:13-22

Over one hundred years ago Fanny Crosby wrote a hymn that became popular in the latter part of the nineteenth, and throughout the twentieth, century. Remarkably, it is only one of the 8-9000 songs this blind lady wrote – more than any other known hymn writer. It is entitled, Redeemed. Beneath its title in the hymn book is the verse, Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so . . ” She wrote:
Redeemed – how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus;
No language my rapture can tell.
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I know I shall see in His beauty
The King in whose law I delight,
Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps
And giveth me songs in the night.

Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed, His child, and forever, I am.

The word, redeemed, is not all that common in our day; most of us have not had occasion to use a pawn shop. Someone in dire straits can exchange valuable jewelry or other such items for cash in a pawn shop, with the understanding that within a time-frame you can buy it back or redeem it. I am sure you also know people redeem stocks or bonds for cash as it is needed. That helps us to understand the word.

Though not often used in common vernacular, it is vital that every born again believer in Jesus Christ understands and appreciates its meaning. Our text, I Peter 1:17-19, tells us why, “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; (that means, live with reverence and caution.) knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”

At the Communion Table, Christians regularly celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross where He died, shedding blood for the forgiveness of our sin and thus for our redemption. Our first Owner/Creator, through the blood of Christ, bought us back from sin and the devil’s clutches, thereby redeeming us. Make sure you understand and appreciate this wonderful, transforming experience called the new birth.

One of the basic truths we need to hold as crucial in our thinking as Christians is that we no longer belong to ourselves, or to the devil, or to this world – we belong to God! We have been bought with a price. It ought to be hugely meaningful to us that we have been purchased by the One and only King of kings and Lord of lords. That is the central teaching of our text, I Peter 1:13-22, from which I shall emphasize just three words:

I. REDEEMED

On the basis of creation all of us rightly belong to God. That, by the way, is one reason why the theory of evolution and its by-product, atheism, is so obnoxious to God and to the follower of Jesus Christ. It is also why evolution is pushed so insistently and irrationally. The devil has wrapped his tentacles around the minds of many scientists, and through them educators, and through them our children and the general public. Thus, people doubt or outright disbelieve and deny, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1)

If God did not create the heavens and the earth and all that is, including us, then we could legitimately question His claim on us or on this universe. We would owe Him little or nothing. Thus, redemption remains a myth to many! They prefer the irrational claims of evolution to the overwhelming, rational evidence that a Supreme and magnificent Designer put it together and is our rightful Owner. Genesis 1-3 contain vital teaching. It provides the basic footings upon which the entire structure of the universe, including humanity and true Christianity are based.

In Genesis 3 we learn of the most cataclysmic event of all world history – the rebellion of mankind against God’s ownership. We call it, in theological terms, the Fall. Adam and Eve listened to the devil, disobeyed God, and set in motion the devastating path of sin, death and the curse of ongoing judgment. The Bible tells the sad story from beginning to end, verified by all of history to this date. If you need to answer the questions: why death, why sickness, poverty, evil, war, violence, tragedies, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, greed, lies? Why? Why? Why black flies and mosquitos?? Well, mankind has rebelled against the ownership of God Almighty and lives under judgment, the curse of sin – that is why!

By the sixth chapter of Genesis, things had gotten so bad God sent a massive flood to judge mankind’s sin and to correct the damage it had inflicted upon the earth. Genesis 6:5-7 gives His explanation: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.'” Tragic!

But, the next statement, Genesis 6:8, brings encouraging, hope-nurturing words to all of us who struggle with human failure, but long for divine blessing. It says, “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.” God is a God of mercy, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Beloved, believe in redemption! Bless God, we are not hopelessly stuck in the muck and mire of sin. God has made a way for us to be redeemed. If we believe in Jesus and repent of sin, He will buy us back from the evil of whatever lurks in our past or present, the sins of our forefathers and our personal sins. He tracks us down by His amazing grace, convicts us of our wickedness by His Holy Spirit, draws us by that same Spirit to a place of repentance and submission to His Lordship. He gives faith in His provision of cleansing, forgiveness, holiness, blessing and heaven. Love the redemption story! Live it! Share it!

But, redemption has been costly, beyond our capacity to pay. Someone had to do it for us, and did; Jesus did! That takes us to the next important word from our text:

II. BLOOD – “We were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from our futile way of life inherited from our forefathers, but with precious blood . . (18-19)

Many of us have heard this from our childhood. Today there is a tendency to avoid the word, “blood” because it seems crude and can be misunderstood by, or offensive to, politically correct North Americans. But it must not lose its meaning nor its impact upon us.

The Communion service which the faithful celebrate regularly, putting into our mouths the broken bread and the blood redness of grapes or wine, has a specific purpose – to vividly and tangibly, physically and emotionally, intellectually and spiritually remind us that we are bought at the price of Someone’s blood. The price of redemption from sin took Someone’s death on our behalf, the Lamb of God. It was a price none of us could pay for our blood was unacceptable, tainted by sin and failure. The wages of sin is death, so if we had to pay that price then all would be lost. To die in our sin spells judgment, damnation, hell! Think on it.

The Old and New Testaments of the Bible make this so very clear. From Abel’s offering to Abraham’s altar and sacrifices, to Moses’ Passover, to the complex sacrifices of Leviticus in the Tabernacle and, later, in Jerusalem’s temple and the annual sacrifice of the high priest in the Holy of Holies – all of it dramatically, vividly shouted out to the people of God: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Beloved, our very life in Christ Jesus and the existence of Christianity hinges on this fact: “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” It took blood to redeem us. What an immense price was paid. And, at no cost to us, for Jesus paid it all! That brings us to another word in our text, essential to all of this.

III. JESUS – “We are redeemed with precious blood, as of a Lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (19)

In this same book, (3:18) Peter gives this explanation: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the Just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit.” Never take for granted what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary for all who will believe.
We are redeemed, but not with silver;
We are bought, but not with gold.
Bought with a price; the blood of Jesus.
Precious price of love untold.

Paul describes it like this in Philippians 2:5-13: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed. . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God ho is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Jesus, Son of the living God, has redeemed us by becoming one with us so He could buy us back with His own precious blood. We owe Him a debt beyond our capacity even if we could serve Him faithfully for a 1000 years. He has bought us out of sin. He has moved into our lives and taken up residence so we can be holy. He has promised us eternal life in His presence – heaven. He is there today, the Christ who died, was buried and rose again, making preparation for His return and our entrance into the joys of His eternal kingdom.

Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the Name that charms all fears, that bids our sorrows cease:
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.

Glory to God, and praise and love be ever, ever given
By saints below and saints above, the Church in earth and heaven.
By Charles Wesley

If you are not one of the redeemed, why, oh why, do you wait? Call upon His name in humble repentance. He will save you, enter your life with transforming power, and live in you a life which is clean, free and eternal. Trust Him for He created you, lost you and will gladly redeem you. If you are wayward in your faith and carelessly becoming more so, go to the cross and repent of your sin. Confess it to God and let the precious blood of Christ cleanse and renew you. Let His Holy Spirit live unrestrained in and through you. Prove His sufficiency to keep you, to deepen your faith and to bless you with an abundant life.

OUR GREAT SALVATION – I Peter 1:1-12

Feelings can be dangerous. They can tend to excesses of emotion at the expense of reason or faith, often fluctuating like the rolling sea. In spite of that, feelings can also be good. Both can provide a healthy release or corrective. When reason is controlled and taught of the Holy Spirit, then we learn things so wonderful about God and truth that we need to give expression to our emotions. Most of the time that should happen in the secret place for it can be too personal to be shared widely. But emotions need to be vented. Songs of praise, worship and prayer are a good way to accomplish that.

King David of Israel could testify to this after the tongue lashing he received from his wife when the Ark of the Covenant was returning to Jerusalem. He became so emotional, he forgot to be discreet. He dropped his kingly robes and to the blowing of trumpets took to leaping, dancing and shouting in the streets. His wife, watching from their house, was appalled for she saw him dancing before the people in what would be tantamount in our day to boxer undershorts. It offended her sense of kingly decorum. On the other hand, the return of the Ark was a huge event, for it assured the king and his people of the presence and blessing of God among them. It was too much for him to enjoy without an explosion of emotion, but it wrecked the marriage, which says a lot of things we will not go into.

Dear saints, our salvation from sin and judgment to an abundant life now, and heaven hereafter, is so wonderful that it ought to cause in us the exuberance of inexpressible joy that comes from heaven itself! Think on the wonderful salvation God has given us and which His Son, Jesus, purchased. Let us refresh our memories of that blessed occasion when we were drawn into God’s great salvation. That will renew our dedication/commitment to God by reminding us of the pit of sin from which we were released. It will stimulate faith and zeal for obedient, holy living. It will encourage praise and worship, motivating the sharing of our faith with others.

Born again of the Spirit, let us be filled with joy because of what Christ purchased for us when He shed His blood on Calvary’s cross. The Scriptures clearly outline for us the nature of this holy work of God on our behalf. Our salvation is no small thing! It is huge, beyond our feeble comprehension. The Godhead and the very courts of heaven itself are involved. Consider Who and what is involved in it.

I. GOD, THE FATHER

We start with God, the Father, for to the believer all things must start with Him. The Bible states, “Beside Him there is no other.” The so-called new atheists have been emboldened by the ignorance and indifference about God that abounds, especially in the Western world these days. The gods of false religions are allowed equal rights among us. The numerous idols of every kind, from materialism, sports, entertainment, personal rights to relativistic and hedonistic philosophies, dominate the scene and detract from essentials. For many the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, has been replaced by trivial things and shallow thinking.

But the Word of God cuts through all of it, declaring in no uncertain terms, we are to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.” The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) help us to understand what that really means. Review them regularly for they provide a measuring stick as to the exclusiveness of God’s nature and the breadth of His saving work in our attitudes and actions.

So, what is God’s role in our salvation? Everything, really! But specifically, He “chose us according to His foreknowledge.” (I Peter 1:1-2) If you are wondering how in the world God happened to choose you for salvation, look to verse 3, “It was according to His great mercy.” We cannot understand that, for it is beyond us; but we can accept it. And we should accept it with exuberant praise. Thus the outburst, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The wonderful truth is that our God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance. Like the hound of heaven He tracks us down, confronts our sin and reveals His immense love for us. His patience seems boundless though it would be folly to presume upon it. Thus we are warned, “today is the day of salvation, the night comes when no man can work.”

Furthermore, our great God is protecting His children by His mighty power. (verse 5) Do not worry about how weak, helpless and undeserving we are. That is just a fact! Do not be overwhelmed by the many wiles of the devil, persistent temptation, or the invasive world system in which we live. The power of Almighty God Who made heaven and earth, Who holds the whole world in His hands and keeps the stars in space, that great God is committed to protecting us. Let Him! But there is Someone else who is involved:

II. GOD, THE HOLY SPIRIT – Verse 2

Note, our salvation includes the “sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps our first encounter with the Holy Spirit was His convicting/convincing work regarding our sinfulness and desperate need of God. John said of Him, “He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.” (John 16) Often using the Word of God, circumstances or personal testimony, the Holy Spirit makes us face our sinfulness. Then He confronts us with the righteousness of God, thereby giving us the benefit of comparison between what is wrong and what is right. In this process He makes us aware of judgment. The fear of hell and divine punishment have driven many into the loving hands of a merciful and forgiving God.

When we repent of sin and call upon the name of Jesus for salvation, then the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit assuring us we have been accepted by a holy God. The Holy Spirit, when we listen to Him, makes obedience to the words and ways of Jesus a big issue in our lives. And, because we tend to fail, He applies the cleansing blood of Christ to us, returning us to fellowship with Him. We need that work of the Spirit because He wants to lead us into all truth which is critical to our spiritual growth and to the pleasure of God.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, lives in us who believe. He must rule us or we will stray from truth. That is our natural tendency. The Apostle Paul warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit, which happens when we disobey or stray from the truth. When we do not listen to Him, or follow His guidance into obedience to Christ, we grieve Him. We make Him sad! Remember, He lives in us who believe so we go nowhere or do nothing without His presence and knowledge. What caution that should bring to our way of life!

Paul goes a step further, warning of the danger of quenching the Spirit. (I Thessalonians 5:19) If we quench the Spirit we are blocking Him and His work. That is a very dangerous state in which to live. Only outright rebellion against God’s will and ways, crass disobedience, causes such a condition. Never quench the Holy Spirit! Deal with sin when you have fallen into it, and do it quickly and thoroughly.

On the other hand, what a wonderful assistance to saving grace is the sensitivity, presence, power and enabling of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. Be encouraged to know we are not saved and then pushed out of the nest to make it on our own. God stays with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Wonderful! Next, there is –

III. GOD, THE SON, JESUS CHRIST

Surely, I need only to touch briefly on the role of Jesus Christ in this great salvation of ours. At Easter we celebrate Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He died the just for the unjust to bring us to God. Without His sacrifice on our behalf we would still be in our sins. Jesus shed blood paid the penalty rightfully charged against us by a holy God. He died in our stead and rose again from the dead to present to His Father the satisfaction of justice. What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord; what a wonderful Saviour to me. Jesus came, sent by the Father, to live among us and to die for us that we might be saved.

If you have not entered into this great salvation, call upon the name of Jesus this very moment. He will receive you and grant you His salvation. He promised to do that, declaring, “All the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37) Then, consider –

IV. THE PROPHETS OF GOD – Verses 10-12

If you have read I Peter 1 you have noted verses 10-12. “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.”

What amazing verses! What an amazing book is the Bible! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like it on earth in all the millions, perhaps billions, of books that have been written filling a million libraries.

Listen with understanding. For thousands of years, long before Christ was born of the virgin Mary, the pre-existent Christ was teaching the prophets of old about His coming to earth as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Read, Isaiah 53, just one prophet and one Scripture of many, to grasp the clarity and significance of this. Read the seeming complicated book of Leviticus and understand, at least, that the detailed instructions regarding the various animal sacrifices, spoke of that one and only sacrifice, Jesus, that would be sufficient to take away our sin. Those early writers never saw its full meaning in their day, but they wrote it down so we would know that this great salvation we experience was the longing of their heart. More importantly, it was in the heart of a gracious and loving God! What they longed for, we are privileged to experience.

No wonder the writer of Hebrews warns: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (2:1-3) We must not neglect the Old Testament and its teachings for they predict and confirm the essential nature and importance of God’s eternal plan of salvation.

Ah, but notice something else about our salvation. This gets better and better. If you think God’s saving grace, which has touched our lives, is not something absolutely huge, then think again! It involves the triune God, the prophets of old and now –

V. THE ANGELS OF GOD ARE INVOLVED – Verse 12

God’s salvation is so wonderful and mysterious that even the angels look into it with wonder. Angels are God’s messengers. They are doing God’s bidding bringing about the circumstances and conditions suitable to the work of the Spirit of God to bring us into union with Himself. If you have a heart for God they are steering you in the right direction.

If the angels are looking into the matter of God’s saving work, surely they are also helping things along. When we get to heaven perhaps we will be able to find the one who helped work things together for our salvation and to thank him or her. Maybe you were such a rough diamond that it took a hundred or two to get you in? Find them all and thank them! But, not until you have thanked the Godhead adequately – if we ever could. Next, involved in our salvation are –

VI. THE BELIEVERS IN GOD, THE CHURCH

When we think about our great salvation, let us not forget the saints of all the ages who have played a part. Important to our salvation has been that great host of witnesses down through the ages who loved and served Christ, serving and maintaining the Church in every generation until this very day. Without them and their faithful, sacrificial ministries where would we be? Never, never belittle the role of the church, God’s faithful people, down through the ages. Without them how would the next generations hear truth?

Old and New Testament people sought God, yielded to His call, learned to know Him, suffered and died to proclaim and uphold His holy Name. The Scriptures and church history have told the fascinating story, and it is still a work in progress. The gates of hell have opened wide intending to corral and destroy truth. The devil, his demons and endless helpers have done, and do, everything in their power to shout down, or shut up, or mess up the message of God’s saving grace through the church. None of it has ultimately worked! Truth has prevailed. Christ has triumphed. Against all odds Jesus has built His Church and will continue to do so until the trumpet sounds, and the devil, with his agents, is dropped into the bottomless pit.

We have read the last chapter of world history, and we win! God wins! Hallelujah for ever and ever. Do not belittle the faithful testimony of the generations who have preceded ours. So, hang in there, dear saints. Do not get discouraged, or drop the ball. Serve well and faithfully for Jesus gives us the victory. Finally,

V11. YOU/WE ARE PART OF THIS GREAT SALVATION

Recognizing the work of the Godhead on our behalf, the truth of the Scriptures and the ministry of the saints, we believe and therefore live in Christ Jesus. If you have yet to believe, do not waste another opportunity to call out to Jesus, Who will gladly save you and bring you into His family. Our obligation in this process is to believe, to repent and to call upon Him for His great salvation.

We are saved to serve. Hold to the promises of God and act on them. Cooperate with the Holy Spirit who seeks to build in us, and to demonstrate through us, the character and beauty of Jesus. Learn to pray, to give and to witness. Be sure your family, friends, neighbors and associates know you are a follower of Christ, a part of His kingdom. All of us are an important link in the chain of God’s saving purposes for this generation and the next. How will we do it? A. B. Simpson wrote a hymn to answer that.

There’s a battle raging in the heavenly places,
Sin and death and sickness with Satan leading on;
With the hosts of earth and hell arrayed against us,
How in all our weakness shall the fight be won?

Jesus giveth us the victory.
He, who overcame on Calvary,
Overcomes again in you and me.
Hallelujah! Jesus gives the victory!

I AM RICH! – I Peter 1:4-5

Like most in this good country we are blessed with shelter, food, clothing, transportation and an adequate income. We have reason to be very grateful, even if there is not a great deal beyond the necessities. Many are not so fortunate. I hold to I Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.”

Every true believer in Jesus has been given an inheritance so valuable in terms to time and eternity that he or she can unequivocally say, “I am rich!” The measure of our wealth may not be monetary, but it is spiritual, physical, mental, emotional and relational. Though it has wonderful immediate benefits, it is more future than present because it is eternal rather than temporal. For all that, it does include God’s commitment to care for our daily needs. We are rich because of the glorious inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 1:3 tells us we are born again to a lively hope. It elicited from Peter an outburst of praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The reason for such an outburst of praise is that on the basis of mercy, not merit, God saved us through Christ Jesus. He died to be our Saviour and rose again so that we might live. Because He lives we too live. No other religion makes such a claim. Ours is a living hope!

This lively hope gives the follower of Jesus an incredible inheritance. Though it is kept for us in heaven, it must impact our daily thoughts. As Peter explains it we can only say to ourselves, “I am rich! Bless God, am I ever rich!” Now, just what does that mean?

I. WHAT IS THE INHERITANCE? (1:4-5)

It is the glorious and ultimate completion of the salvation which we now experience in Christ Jesus. Down here we have not yet experienced all that He came to purchase for us. We have the promise and the down payment, so to speak, but we must wait for the trumpet to sound and heaven for the full gift. That keeps us trusting, hoping and serving, but there is more to come – much more!

What we now experience in Christ is only a sample of what salvation is about. At the end of the age and the coming of Jesus, we will really see and experience all the new birth is about. Don’t misunderstand, God gives us a great deal for the NOW in Christ – forgiveness and cleansing from sin, victory over the world, the flesh and the devil, the indwelling fullness of the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the saints, the protective armour of God, access by prayer to His throne room, daily provisions, a living hope, guidance, comfort, wisdom and the ministry of reconciliation, etc., etc. But, it is not to be compared with the glory that shall yet be revealed! The full salvation God purchased for us in Christ is beyond anything we can imagine on earth. Read I Corinthians 15 and Revelation 19-22 for a glimpse of our inheritance. The Holy City, no tears or sickness, no poverty or evil of any kind, no death. Only the presence of the triune God in all His fullness and the fellowship with all the saints of all the ages!

We know this because of the promises and testimony of the Word of God. All who have walked with God know something of the benefits listed. And, the saints of all the ages wrote of their experiences and often staked their lives on the hope and promise of their inheritance in Christ. I believe the promise we read in I Peter 1:4-5. God does what He says!

A question each of us must ask is, are we in line for this inheritance? Have we invited Jesus to move into our life to make us clean within, to take control, to make us new – born again to a living hope and a glorious inheritance? You can qualify right now if you will reach out to Jesus by faith, repenting thoroughly of sin, and inviting Him to be your Saviour and Lord. The inheritance, then, is the full salvation that is ready to be revealed.

II. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS INHERITANCE?

It is important to know this for our inheritance in Christ is special.

A. IT IS IMPERISHABLE – It has none of the seeds of disintegration or death in it. Time, taxes, inflation, error, darkness, storm, trouble, sickness, war, sin, death or governments cannot steal, change or destroy it! It is imperishable. No wonder it is called a living hope that holds us safe though all else should crumble and fall. Remember, everything will be shaken so that which cannot be shaken will remain.

Think of how encouraging this thought would be to those people to whom it was first written. Having lost most everything through persecution, it would be so comforting to know that what they had in Christ Jesus was secure. Moth, rust, thieves, not even the Roman Empire or hostile religious leaders could touch what they had in Christ. Never forget that, as things crumble around us, be it the economy, morality, politics or freedoms.

Because of this abiding truth a man like the Apostle Paul could write while in jail, with an uncertain future on earth, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1) In truly terrible circumstances, in a miserable, first century prison he spoke of a “peace that passes all understanding, keeping our heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4) Surely this is life-transforming. Such teaching keeps us steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. What an inheritance!

B. IT IS UNDEFILED – Think of what that means. It is untainted, unstained, untouched by sin, corruption, the failures of past behaviour or present weakness. Hallelujah! Some people look back with shame over a lifetime of sin. All of us have failed – with a thousand falls. Our tendency might be to think our heavenly inheritance will be insignificant, pock-marked by our defeats and inadequacies. Maybe we think we can only be second-class citizens in heaven.

The critical question is, is your past life under the cleansing blood of Jesus? Have you confessed your sins to Him and are you keeping close accounts with your Saviour and with others? Then, believe your Lord, “If we confess ours sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Our heavenly inheritance is undefiled by sin, no matter how great, repeated or awful they were. If we have given ourselves to Jesus for cleansing they are gone, removed as far as the east is from the west. He remembers them no more. We are free! Our inheritance in Christ Jesus is undefiled. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, I note something else that should give us cause for caution lest we think this waters down the awfulness of sin and its results. At the portals of heaven there is a fire that will discern between good and evil, confessed and unconfessed sin. All that is wood, hay and stubble, things unsuited to God’s heaven, will go up in smoke. Only that which is imperishable, godly and pure will survive, the gold, silver and precious stones of that which glorifies God. So, deal with sin! Never think you can be careless about failure, temptation or indifference. Nothing unclean will enter God’s heaven so as to defile our inheritance.

C. IT WILL NOT FADE AWAY – A good friend served in the military during World War II. On the wall of his office he had a document honouring his service. But it really was not much good because you could not read what it said. It was faded beyond recognition. The government needed better ink back then. It seems most everything down here fades – clothes, furniture, hair, hearing, eyesight, even our bank account. Be assured when God wrote our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life it will remain clear and legible for all eternity!

The glorious salvation we have been given does not fade, nor will our inheritance in Christ Jesus! It just gets better. Its beauty, strength and significance just improves. That is why the older person, saved as a child, can be as excited and happy about going to be with Jesus as the recent convert. Unfortunately, there may be little time for that person to honour God by building up treasure in heaven. That is a loss, but our God is exceedingly generous even to those whose work for Him starts late in the day. That does not imply one can wait to repent for none of us knows the circumstances nor timing of our demise.

Appreciate the nature of our inheritance in Christ Jesus. It is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. We are rich indeed.

III. THE PRESENT STATE OF OUR INHERITANCE – Vs. 4-5

There are some things we should know about this inheritance just to encourage us and to keep us at rest in the Lord.

A. IT IS RESERVED IN HEAVEN It is safe and secure. Have you ever had the experience of finding an article you really liked at a good price but you needed another opinion? The clerk set it aside upon the promise you would be back to finalize the sale. When you did get back, later than you said, it was gone. Well, our eternal salvation is reserved in heaven – never mislaid, forgotten or removed. The idea here is that it is kept up, kept in good condition. Keep your heart fixed on God and His promises, on Jesus’ atoning work, on obedience and holy living and you will never fear your inheritance will be diminished. Hold on no matter how rough the road.

A man once confessed to me his concern that because of a youthful indiscretion he might have committed the unpardonable sin. I knew he had walked with God, served Him faithfully and sought to do His will in life and work. What a privilege to remind him of the promises, the effective, cleansing work of Christ on the cross, and the renewing work of the Spirit evident in his life. God is faithful to His promises. He is never capricious in His dealings with us. The treasures we have laid up in heaven are intact!

B. WE ARE PROTECTED – vs. 5
The power of God is at work keeping us as His children. His angels are constantly watching over us. His Holy Spirit is in us warning us, convicting, enabling, guiding, teaching and comforting us. He has provided the whole of His armour so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil. It includes His word, faith, truth, hope, peace and prayer. We are protected by the power of God – unlimited, unfailing and unbeatable. Live boldly and serve faithfully. Angels are watching over you.

C. IT IS READY TO BE REVEALED
Our inheritance is ready for that time when Jesus will break through the clouds to take us home. We will not arrive in heaven unexpected one day to find things unprepared. The angels won’t be scurrying about, frazzled by our sudden arrival. Everything is always ready in God’s house. Walk with God in wisdom and you need never fear an untimely departure from this life! What a blessed state in which to live, knowing that our times are in God’s hands.

D. IT IS ON THE BASIS OF FAITH
None of this will thrill our heart, motivate godly living, bring much comfort, assurance and hope to our existence if we do not have faith. “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” Take God at His word and act upon it. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Beloved, when these great truths hold us in their grip, we are rich indeed. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with our Lord Jesus.

BORN AGAIN TO HOPE – I Peter 1:3

Every true follower of Jesus has experienced a wonderful new thing.  It is called the new birth – salvation from the bondage of sin and deliverance from a corrupt nature.  In II Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle Paul describes it:  “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.”  Compared to the new birth all else takes second place.  In Hebrews 2:3 the author warns:  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”   The point is, never allow yourself to become trite about what salvation has brought to your life.  Time, familiarity, carnality and disobedience can quickly steal the freshness, wonder and glory out of our salvation.  Beware!  I Peter 1:1-3 tells us encouraging things that become ours because of the new birth, particularly our living hope.

In an age bereft of hope, the believer is privileged to have a living hope! This hope is not in our circumstances but in our Saviour. Jesus entered into our world with all of its messy sin and degradation, brought to us forgiveness and cleansing, a new life and a sure, uplifting hope. That hope changes everything. We are not stuck in our circumstances. We are liberated from the bondage of time, decay and darkness because Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and promised to come and get us one day. A trumpet is going to sound! We shall meet our Lord in the air and live with Him forever. That will let us into the very holy of holies with God, the throne room of the Ruler of the universe. Never again shall we be plagued by crippling sin, decaying bodies, corrupt minds and discouraging failure. To be born again to a living hope transforms our future and should manage our present.

Peter was writing to believers who had been scattered abroad, victims of persecution and rejection because of their faith in Christ Jesus.  They were not only strangers and aliens because of the new locality and culture in which they were forced to live.  They were strangers because they now belonged to a different kingdom, God’s kingdom.  Because of that they would never feel totally at home in the world’s system again.  We ought to be able to identify with them.  The true follower of Christ must find this letter relevant.  We, who know Jesus, are not of this world. In it, but not of it!

Let us catch some of the enthusiasm, encouragement, yes, and motivation that Peter’s words brought to those hurting first century saints.  May we learn both to understand and to appreciate afresh the new birth and its transforming work in us who believe.  If this sounds strange to you because you know little about the new birth, then I urge you to recognize your need of Christ.  Call upon Him.  Acknowledge your sinfulness,  Claim His mercy because of His death and resurrection on your behalf.  He will hear, forgive and receive you, for He loves you and wants you to be His child.  Only then can you fulfill the reason for which you were born the first time and enter into the blessing of the second birth.

In I Peter 1:3-5 we read:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”   Consider first of all:

I. A DECLARATION OF THE FACTS

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has chosen us to be born again. It tells us He is interested in us. He loves us! He cares! This fact frees us from doubts and questions of all kinds which lead to spiritual instability and hopelessness.

John 3 tells the story of Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, who came to Jesus one night inquiring who He really was. Jesus went right to the heart of what Nicodemus really needed to know. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Responding to his bewilderment Jesus alluded to His crucifixion and gave this marvelous, moving explanation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is often called the Gospel in a nutshell.

People sometimes say they wish they could start over again. Tragic mistakes, hurtful decisions, miserable failures make them feel hopeless. The wonder of the Gospel, its forgiveness and cleansing, make it possible to clean the slate and to start anew. The Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Never let it become old hat, passé. Keep it fresh. Let it fill you with wonder and praise. Nothing like it makes the crooked places straight, the tough, hopeless situations possible and failure correctable. “Except you be born again you cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” Those are the facts of the transforming power of the Gospel.

II. AN OUTBURST OF PRAISE

Have you noticed this about the Psalmist, the prophets and apostles, every now and then they let loose with an outburst of praise. Paul, John and Peter all do it. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 3) Peter bursts forth with praise because of the new birth and its work in the believer. I suspect he was thinking about all Jesus did among them, of which he was an eye-witness: His teaching, love, character, healings, patience, kindnesses, gentleness, authority, and power. Peter would remember those things; and yes, His resurrection! Jesus was alive, still caring for them, including those scattered saints! What cause for praise, by them and us!

He praised God for being the Father of Jesus. The eternal God, Ruler of the universe, sent His only Son to be one of us, to save us. It was His plan from the foundation of the world. Salvation, the new birth, is a big thing, a very big thing, beyond our capacity to comprehend fully because of its magnitude. Think on it and let an outburst of praise flow from your heart and your lips. Worship in spirit and in truth the Lord our God who sent His Son to die that we might live. Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! A song writer instructs us:
Praise the Saviour, you who know Him,
Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him
All we are and have!

III. AN EXPLANATION FOR THE REASON OF THE NEW BIRTH

Surely we should ask why God gave His Son for our salvation. Who is worthy of that? Furthermore, He is God, complete in Himself so He does not need us nor this planet He created for us. Why, why would He develop such a costly plan of providing the new birth for undeserving sinners such as mankind is? Peter, taught of the Holy Spirit, tells us: (vs. 3) “Who according to His abundant mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

God looked on our helpless condition and pitied us as a father pities his children. Out of the depths of His abundant mercy He saved us. The poet expressed it well:

Depth of mercy! Can it be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear? Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face,
Would not harken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls.

Lord, incline me to repent, let me now my fall lament.
Deeply my revolt deplore, weep, believe and sin no more.

Still for me the Saviour stands, shows His wounds and spreads His hands;
God is love, I know, I feel. Jesus weeps, and loves me still.

Ah, it is according to His abundant mercy He has saved us! There is no other reason. We cannot earn it. We do not deserve it. We can only receive it by faith, a gift wrapped and delivered by purest, incredible love and mercy! Let there be many occasions when we say with utter sincerity: “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ which according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” Now, consider

IV. A VIEW OF THE RESULTS OF THE NEW BIRTH

Peter describes the results of the new birth like this: “We have a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Think on it; because we who believe are born again, we have a living hope! Notice what it does not say. The new birth does not necessarily bring ease, prosperity or a trouble-free existence. Often the opposite is true, as it was for his first readers. Life is not necessarily sweet, exotic and delightful down here. Like the proverbial bed of roses it can be beautiful, but also very prickly.

Life in Christ has its joys and its sorrows, its smooth and rough times, its blessings and persecutions, its understanding and its mysteries. But, because it is based on faith in a sovereign God who chose us, one thing we always have is hope. Not the vague, empty, groping hope that questions and frets. But a living hope, an expectant, reasonable and positive hope. It is a common theme of Scripture which when owned by us inspires, comforts, guides, anchors and stabilizes us.

Whether life is up or down, whether blessing or tragedy strikes, whether success or failure occurs, whether sickness or health prevails, whether victory or defeat happens, there is always a living hope to sustain and guide us. Our sovereign Lord is in control. Our Christ is alive and in us who believe. The Holy Spirit is present to speak to and strengthen us. In every circumstance we have read the last chapter, and ultimately we win! That is the living, the lively hope of the believer. We know that everything works together for good to them who are in Christ Jesus, called according to His purpose.

Maybe things are not so good for you right now. You are saying to yourself, “Cool it, preacher! You do not know what I am experiencing. I do not need pie-in-the-sky clichés right now.” Look past the messenger to the God who made you, to His Word given to you, to the instructions and examples of faith given to us.

Perhaps you are a student trying to witness but rejected, considered a kook, isolated and socially buried. You may be a business man, an office worker, a laborer, a housewife, anybody, and you feel trapped and hopeless. It could be sickness that makes your body ache, maybe a bad, ruinous economy, or a mean spouse, or perhaps your kids are rebels and your neighbors a pain. In it all your faith is tottering, your joy withered and your testimony stuttering. So you come to church hoping for something restful, a quiet moment while someone looks after the children, and you are told how hopeful everything is! You ask impatiently: “How? Why? For what?” You want a reason for hope!

1. This living hope is not based on your circumstances. – Forget that! It is in Christ Jesus. He is in you by the Holy Spirit, and He never leaves you nor forsakes you! Life is what it is – sometimes good and sometimes bad. But in it, over it and under it and all around it is our living hope – rooted in our living, indwelling Saviour. “We can do all things through Him Who strengthens us.” He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. He has given us the exceeding great and precious promises to guide and to sustain us. He is made to us wisdom, righteousness and sanctification. Beloved, He is in us who believe holding all things together. We live with hope!

2. We have an unshakeable confidence Jesus is alive. He rose from the dead and is in us who believe. It is a fact witnessed by hundreds of people. Our hope is not based on theory or good philosophy. It is based on the fact that Jesus died on a cross in the hands of an exacting Roman military, but He lives! That feeds our lively hope. No one can squelch it!

3. And for what is all of this? – It is that we might enter into the fullness of the new birth and thus fulfill the destiny for which we were created: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever; to bear witness to His reality and power, to magnify the beauty of Jesus. It is that we might grow in the knowledge of God and in the likeness of Jesus Christ to the praise of His glory.

No wonder Peter exulted: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Let us believe it, for

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand! Amen! Now, live like it!

THE CHRISTIAN’S SELF-IMAGE – I Peter 1:1-2

What is the mental picture you have of yourself and your role in life? Do you immediately see yourself in your occupational role – a business person, a farmer, a manufacturer, an office worker, a husband, wife or parent? Of course, what you do is important for it consumes much of your day, skills and energies. But, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ then the first image to come to mind should be that of a Christian – a follower of Christ! That is the priority issue. It must be the foundational truth, the role, that undergirds everything else we are or do. Our relationship to Christ must be the one vital reality that controls and influences all other roles we may have or truths to which we hold. Everything else about us is attached to that – our life in Christ. In Paul’s words to the Colossians: “He must have pre-eminence.”

Now, how do you see yourself as a follower of Christ? Is the image that of the proverbial 95 pound weakling struggling with the tough, muscle-bound sins that keep throwing sand in your eyes and pushing you around? Is it that of a stammering dunce, barely knowing what you believe, deserving ridicule more than respect? Is your self-image as a Christian that of a fearful, bedraggled soldier running in disarray, trying to duck sin’s flaming missiles of temptation and sin? Just how do you see yourself as a follower of Christ?

I Peter 1:1-2 teaches us that as a follower of Christ we are a special person with a special purpose. We are not spiritual wimps struggling to survive in a harsh, hostile world. We need to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ Jesus, and, as Scripture presents us. It may well be that what I have described above is how you feel, but God sees us differently. He sees the believer in Jesus as His children, His heirs, the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit, a member of the new humanity, part of His Body, victorious soldiers of the cross, ambassadors of His kingdom and instruments for the fulfillment of His purposes on earth. I Peter 2:9 underlines this, declaring: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s own possession.” What a mouthful!

Find and enjoy a new exuberance in living for Christ – in belonging to Him. Let us be bold about, and aware of, who we are in Christ Jesus, for it really is something special. Twenty-five years ago Evangelicals were strangely “discovered” and made to feel important. We were featured on the cover of Time magazine with many positive editorial comments. It was heady stuff. What a difference a decade or two makes! Today, for the most part, we are fodder for ridicule. Granted, the failures and foolishness of some religious leaders and the faulty behaviour of many believers have not helped. The brazen attacks of the “new atheists” and the media coverage given to them have exacerbated the problem. But, the fundamental issue is that the world never will like us for long because we do not belong to this world system, and cannot. We live as a rebuke to evil. Jesus warned us about this: (John 15) “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

Understanding that, I add this is not the time for hang-dog saints, or spiritual anemia, depression or a demoralized self-image. There is never a time when the saints should moan and groan about what he or she is not or is, except as we do so in the context of the powerful, positive posture of Romans 7:25: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Christ Jesus my Lord. . .” We can do and be all that is required of us because of who Christ is in us who believe.

I. INTRODUCTION TO I PETER – First Peter was written by the Apostle of that name. Before the Holy Spirit got hold of him he was a bombastic, take charge fellow with a big mouth and a natural talent for putting his foot in it. He meant well, but he seemed to overdo things. Of all the disciples, he had reason to be discouraged with himself. Earlier God had wonderfully forgiven, taught and renewed him, filling him with the Holy Spirit. Peter was a transformed person. This letter tells us something of the remarkable change that had taken place in him.

The people to whom he was writing were under severe stress. Followers of Jesus through faith, they were scattered all over the map because of persecution. They had lost much in possessions, cultural familiarity, family and friends. They were not only strangers to the society and culture in which they now found themselves, but they were strangers also to the world system that dominated. The Roman Empire dominated the region and their pagan religion prevailed. Furthermore, their own Jewish people had rejected them. These were followers of Christ Jesus; they belonged to God and to His kingdom. As far as those around them were concerned they were strange, aliens, losers.

It is important that in the 21st century we identify with these people so we can appreciate Peter’s teachings and thus apply its truths to our own life and circumstances. Our society scatters people around because that is just the way things are today. Be it for schooling, business or simply a wanderlust, no generation has been more mobile than the last two of which most of us a part. Sociologists speak about the strain of a society that scatters from family, friends and the familiar. Add to that the multi-cultural aspects of immigration, with the increasing tensions it brings but which nobody addresses publicly for fear of racism, and you get the picture.

But, more to the point, as followers of Christ, committed to godly living, we are strangers in our world. The meaning and reality of that is going to increase dramatically in the years ahead. Peter’s letter, guided by the Holy Spirit, reminds us that we belong to another kingdom. We hold to a different set of rules and march to the beat of a different drum.

It is only coincidental to some degree that the world in which we function, and the heavenly kingdom to which we belong, do not clash more than they do. Sadly, it might be because we are too worldly and not godly enough for the difference to be noted. Part of it is the blessing of a Christian consensus that has marked Canadian culture and politics. Whatever, it is tough to be different in school, business or pleasure. But we are and must be different if we hold to the principles and behaviour taught in God’s word. The follower of Christ belongs to the kingdom of God. In many ways we are strangers to this world. Most of our neighbours don’t quite understand us.

So, how, exactly and practically, are we to see ourselves in this world in which we live? First,

II. WE ARE A SPECIAL PEOPLE – vs. 2

Read with wonder and appreciation Peter’s words (1:1-2) “We are chosen (elect) according to the foreknowledge of God.” God has chosen us for Himself! Don’t let that steer you into the Arminian-Calvinistic argument. Just enjoy it as a wonderful, encouraging truth! If you were among the persons Peter was writing to, and going through all the stresses they were enduring, you would be ecstatic to read such words. Put yourself in their position and let me describe it in the light of God’s choosing us.

Think of yourself as someone scattered from the familiar and comfortable, a misfit in this world. Ah, but you belong to God! You are chosen by Him who made the worlds, heaven and earth and all that is in them. The Sovereign Majesty on high, Ruler of the universe and of time and eternity has chosen you! You are a follower of Jesus, a member of His Body, part of His family and of the heavenly kingdom. You have stepped away from what was considered normal and acceptable. That difference caused rejection and persecution to the saints of Peter’s day, forcing them to flee.

You, I hope, have believed on the Lord Jesus and His finished work on the cross, repented of your sins and called upon His name in humility and in faith. Yes, you could have rejected Him, but you did not. Something in your heart and mind drew you to Christ. God, by His Holy Spirit, drew you to Himself, forgave and cleansed you, put His Holy Spirit within you. By grace He set it all up – and put you in the middle of it. Perhaps you were totally unaware of what He was really doing, but He did it. He chose you and is still choosing people according to His foreknowledge. That is why we never quit praying for people to yield to Him.

Beloved, all we need to say, and to keep on saying as long as we live, is: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Thank you, Jesus.” for we too are special people, chosen by God! How can we ever think about ourselves the same again? Be deeply impressed and highly honoured to think God Almighty chose us to be His children, the habitation of His Spirit. We are a special people! Oh, don’t be proud for a second because we did not deserve this. God did it out of His love and mercy. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to His cross I cling.” Amazing grace, indeed!

Now, does not such a thought influence our behaviour, our attitude toward God, ourselves, others and our world? So what if we feel a bit scattered, unaccepted, misunderstood, few in number, weak in this world’s eyes, strangers to much of what is counted as important or attractive? We are special people, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father! Are you getting this?

It is a ploy of the devil to belittle the follower of Christ in his/her own eyes, or in those of others. Don’t believe him, or them. We are not losers, religious kooks, intellectual cripples, old-fashioned, or whatever we have been called. No! We are sons/daughters of Almighty God, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. This is not an attempt to pump up your ego. This is biblical, a happy theological truth. Hear Peter’s words again in chapter 2, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

By the inscrutable choosing of an all-wise, holy and loving God you are a special person. Wonderful! I do know the questions: “But, how did I become such a special person? I know myself and I’m not so special when it comes to spiritual things.” Right! By nature we are spiritually dead, deceived and doomed. (Ephesians 2) But, Peter tells us what happened. (1:2) By the sanctification of the Spirit, God set us apart to be His. It is a supernatural work of God, “not of works lest any man should boast”.

That is so exciting – and comforting. The Holy Spirit goes about marking people for God. This is part of His job description. Part of our job description is to find and inform them. (John 16) It should surprise us how many Christians seem ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s work. We are called to be a platform from which the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, righteousness and judgment.

III. WE HAVE A SPECIAL PURPOSE FOR LIVING

A. THAT WE MAY OBEY JESUS CHRIST – vs. 2 We are chosen, set apart and enabled for a two-fold purpose: first for obedience. We are not chosen of God just so we can have a ball in heaven one day. It is not His intention that we make it through this life simply to slide into the next. No! We are here to obey our Lord. We are chosen to obey the principles and practices of the life laid down for us. You find them clearly listed and illustrated in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5, and the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20. The Epistles explain them clearly. We are to measure the development of our life in Christ by these teachings of the Bible, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

God has chosen us and the Holy Spirit has set us apart that we might obey the teachings and behaviour of Christ Jesus. It is a vital purpose of our life in Christ. It must be our solemn intention as we read the Scriptures to obey God’s word. That will bring life and focus to our reading. Our special purpose as special people is to obey Christ, and the Holy Spirit lives in us to accomplish this. Only by obedience can we properly represent our Lord and thus enjoy more fully His blessing. That is how we become a blessing to others by being guiding lights and salt curbing corruption.

The second sanctifying work or purpose Peter speaks of sounds strange to us at first:
B. THAT WE MAY BE SPRINKLED WITH HIS BLOOD – That has both Old and New Testament roots. In the Old Testament the atoning blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled on the priests and their instruments thereby making them holy and useable. The blood brought cleansing from sin giving them access to God, setting them apart to be useful. (Read Exodus and Leviticus)

In the New Testament a dramatic change took place, for the Lord Jesus became the permanent sacrifice, paying the penalty of our sin. His sacrifice on the cross gives us acceptance and thus access to God. The blood of Christ applied to our lives sets us apart, purifies us and makes us holy as He is holy. (Read Hebrews 9-10) Because of Jesus we stand before God Almighty as “holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” (Colossians 1:22) What an incredible debt of gratitude we owe our Lord! At the Lord’s table we celebrate in remembrance what Christ did on the cross. We have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, cleansed and set apart as holy and fit for God’s use. Grace and peace become ours in fullest measure. (1:2)

Seeing ourselves as special people with a special purpose makes the rest of the teachings in Peter’s letter meaningful and forceful. It fills us with a sense of awe and dependence. The grace purchased by the sacrifice of Christ and our calling in Him sanctifies us, sets us apart for holiness, purity and usefulness. Marvel at what has happened because of Jesus. Humbly acknowledge with appreciation our dependence on the One who saved us and gave us this high calling. Each time we come to the Communion Table let us do so with humble worship and praise. Rejoice in His great salvation for we are chosen by God to be special people with a special purpose to be both obedient and pure in a world that by many indications is becoming hostile toward us.

This world is not our home, we are just passing through;
Our treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heavens open door.
And I can’t feel at home on this earth anymore.