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Monday
Apr102017

When God Calls Our Bluff

Luke 19:37-40.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 9, 2017.

Today is Palm Sunday.  In and of itself it looks like a good day in the life of Jesus, at least on the surface.  But as we did deeper into what is really going on here, we see that ultimately it is a very sad day that reveals exactly why the crucifixion and the resurrection are necessary components to the salvation of a human being.

The calling of someone’s bluff comes from gambling at poker.  Instead of only waiting until you have a good hand to bet large, a person will learn to play a more difficult game of pretense.  I may pretend I have a bad hand or pretend I have a good hand.  It makes it more difficult for others to tell if I am really bluffing.  Now, between humans, this simply comes down to who is best at bluffing.  However, you can always be wrong when you call someone’s bluff.  If you call you must be ready to pay the price if you are wrong.  At this point let’s switch to the topic at hand.

If God calls our bluff, there is no question.  He knows our thoughts and our heart better than we do.  Thus, for God the risk is not calling our bluff.  The risk is to let us continue pretending that we have a good hand when in reality we are living in a land of our own imagination.  People who try to live in reality based upon imaginary things and pretense ultimately will find their dream world turn into a nightmare as everything they think is good proves not to be so.  The point today is that God loves us too much to let us keep bluffing.  In reality this is exactly what Jesus is doing that day all those years ago.  Let’s look at the passage.

Jesus Presents Himself as Messiah and King

The larger context tells us that there is a Passover festival at hand in Jerusalem.  Many people are coming to Jerusalem to celebrate.  So, we find Jesus making his way to Jerusalem.  However, there are some unique things that he does.  He purposefully comes in such a way that the religious people of Israel will know that he is presenting himself as the Messiah.

The two terms, Messiah and Christ, have come to us from the first century.  Messiah is a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.”  Throughout Israel’s history God had progressively revealed to them that He would eventually send His Anointed One who would be King of Israel and would restore Israel and the even the world to righteousness.  He himself would be perfectly righteous.  Some passages to back this up are: Psalm 2, 1 Samuel 2:10, and Daniel 9:25.   During the time of David it was revealed that the Messiah would be of the line of David.  So they had a promise of a coming savior who would fix all that was wrong with Israel and take over the whole world.  So, if Jesus is presenting himself as Messiah, we might ask the question, “Why didn’t he do it?”  It has been said that Jesus came the first time to fix only our spiritual problem and that his Second Coming will be about fixing our natural and geo-political problems.  Though there is some truth to this, it is a gross simplification.  To fix a person’s unbelief and sin, is to transform their life in the natural.  Thus those who believed in Jesus and followed His ways discovered a transformed natural life, as well as a supernatural one.  Let’s look at the Second Coming.  Though Jesus will clearly remove the wicked kings and armies of this world and take over politically, it is also clear that he deals with our spiritual enemy, the devil.   By the time of Jesus, the Greek language was as prevalent in the near east as English is throughout the world today.  Thus the word Christ was used as a synonym for the Hebrew term Messiah.  It too meant an anointed one.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had asked people to keep the fact that he was the messiah under wraps.  He wasn’t ready to announce himself yet.  But on this day he is ready.  Before we look at how they would know that is what he is doing, let’s look at the timing issue first.  Throughout their history Israel had waited for the messiah.  Definitely since the prophet Isaiah who spoke of him throughout his book, but especially Isaiah 53.  That would be over 700 years.  But they had also been waiting since David and his many prophecies 950 years earlier.  In some ways we can even go back to Abraham and God’s promises to him, or Eve and God’s promise that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  It is hard to keep positive about a promise that takes so long to keep.  God’s timing is clearly not our timing.  How many generations had been born, heard the promise, hoped in it, and then died without seeing it?  Of course no one person had to wait over a 1,000 or even 2,000 years.  Yet, intellectually they would recognize that it has been a long time.  This would raise the question, is it really going to happen?  Doubts, and even cynicism, easily creep in.  This is typically handled one of two ways.  We either outwardly reject it and live openly without that hope, or, we keep the doubt internal.  We keep up the bluff that we believe in order to get the best out of the system that such belief has built up.  So when Jesus presents himself that day, there are people in different categories.  There are some who have held out hope against all odds that the Messiah would still come someday even though it had been so long.  There were others who only pretended that they believed the Messiah would come.  They actually lived their lives based on other hopes.  Then there are those who had outwardly given up in believing.  The life of Jesus had stirred all of these different groups.  His miracles and powerful words shook them to the core.

I point all this out because we are in the same boat today.  We have been waiting for the Second Coming of Christ coming on 2,000 years.  In 2 Peter 3:3-4, the apostle warns us, “Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning.’”  These same categories exist in our churches and across this world.  In our humanity and in our sinfulness we want, and even demand, God to do it now!  We want Him to operate on our timetable.  Since God has not cooperated, we cast Him aside and seek to make ourselves God: observing all things (omnipresent), knowing everything (omniscient), doing anything (omnipotent), and living as long as we want (immortal).  So the question today is this, do you trust God’s timing even though it has been so long?  Are you willing to wait, or are you only pretending to be waiting for Him.  One day He will call our bluff and Jesus will present himself to our surprise.  On that day the hidden hand that we really have will be laid on the table for all to see.  Don’t cast away the promise of God and forge your own way.  The siren call of the modern world and its technology is that we no longer need a God.  We can become the gods that we have always wanted.  The problem is that there really is a God and He really has asked us to wait for Him.  Future us will slam into that reality at light speed, just as Israel and Rome did all those years ago.

But it is not just God’s timing that bothers us.  It is also the way in which He does it.  There are parts of the plan that Israel liked (getting rid of the bad guys and ruling over the whole earth).  But clearly there were other parts that they didn’t like.  Jesus comes down the Mt. of Olives to the city of Jerusalem riding on the colt of a donkey as prophesied in Zechariah 9.  But, this gives a far different picture of God’s Anointed King than our flesh would like to dream up.  He does not come as the proud, flamboyant hero that our flesh desires.  Instead, he comes as the humble, peaceful, unpretentious leader who is not drunk on their own authority.  He did not have a sword, nor an army behind him, at least in the natural.  He came not to pat the people on the back and say good job.  But, instead he comes to save them from their sins, and those powers that used their sins to hold them in bondage.  He was not after geo-political boundaries that day, but rather to break down the boundaries and walls that they had built around their hearts (that we build around ours even today).  The heart of the matter is this, we want a leader who will not demand our hearts change, but rather will change the world around us.  We want things to change without us having to change.  Of course this is impossible.  Even progressives who say similar things, but in order to increase our faith in the intellectual elite that will lead us into the New Age of Mankind, do not recognize that the only change that matters is the one that must happen in our sinful and rebellious heart.  No.  Mankind cannot fix itself because to do so is to refuse to change in the one area that it must (in hearts and minds).  Thus our own hearts set us up for the betrayal of leaders who promise heaven and yet deliver hell, who look like Jesus but in the end they are a devil.  Jesus did not fit the profile that the religious leaders had in their mind.  All their lives they had said that they loved God and wanted His Messiah.  And yet, Jesus was the fulfillment of all of this.  God called their bluff and many of them were found wanting.

The History of the Church

There are two aspects to the history of the Church.  On one hand it may seem that it is no different from Israel and that God’s plan didn’t work.  Definitely, the Church as an institution of people is like Israel because it is made of people.  Yet, on the other hand, in the midst of it all, we do see people who believed God and refused to only honor Him with their lips.  They were not bluffing.  Just as Israel had her prophets and believers within the midst of many unbelievers, so too is the Church.  When the hard call came to them in their day and age, they rejected what the world was offering and followed Jesus.  Thus the early apostles did not create little kingdoms over which they all reigned as popes.  Instead, they each sacrificed their lives to give the Truth of Jesus the Christ to the world.  The reformers in Europe refused to shut up and obey man, but instead lost everything in order to follow Jesus.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said of Martin Luther that he thought he had left everything behind to enter the monastery.  But what he found in the monastery was that there was one more thing he needed to let go of, his pious, proud self-will.  Thus Luther had to leave this in the monastery and go back into the world, all the while being called a heretic and blasphemer by those who held the reins of power.  None of these people were perfect, only Jesus is perfect.  But they understood that to follow Jesus is to let go of everything that comes between us and him.  It is ours to simply say yes to his timing and to his way.  Yes, it will often be inconvenient and difficult.  But it always leads us away from destruction and towards life.

What is it that Jesus is calling us to do today?  Yes, in general, we are to be faithful to His Word and promote Jesus as savior and Lord.  But what is he specifically saying to you about your life.  Every time we read God’s Word, His Holy Spirit works in our hearts to call our bluff, or at least to get us to resist turning towards it.  He calls us to be real.  So what were the responses on that day?  There really are only two that are possible.

The Response to Jesus

Let us not kid ourselves.  Jesus was clearly presenting himself as God’s Messiah (The Anointed One) who was the rightful King of Israel.  As this gauntlet is thrown down those who believed that he was Messiah began to rejoice.  His ways had confused them because he wouldn’t do anything that looked like he was going to take over.  So on this day his followers are ecstatic because they think they know what will happen next.  Finally, he is ready to do what we have asked him to do.  Though they are in for a rude awakening as to what is next, it is still important to recognize their response to Jesus.  They quote from Psalm 118, which was a psalm predicting a coming Anointed King who would save Israel.  They believed in Jesus, and thus believed God who had sent Him.

All that said, even when we initially respond correctly, our faith is always going to be challenged.  Today when he rides down the hill on a donkey their faith is strong.  But what about later when he hangs on a cross and is buried, will they still believe?  When he is resurrected and yet ascends into heaven without fixing everything, will they still believe?  If we really trust God and His Anointed One, Jesus, then it is our duty to follow and accept that His way is perfect and mine is not.  You see even then their hearts were still their greatest enemies.  Would they be led astray by their wicked hearts?  Thus the reality is this, those who believe will do the actions of faith.  Their heart and their mind will protest a thousand times and yet, at the end of the day, they will choose to trust God over their own heart and mind.  We will be tested on this time and time again throughout our life, not because God is trying to disqualify us, but because He is perfecting us.  He is making us to be like Jesus, if we will let Him.

The Second response is simply to not believe.  Those who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah resisted and did the actions of unbelief.  Thus the religious leaders rebuke Jesus and tell him to rebuke his disciples.  Resisting can be open and heavy or hidden and slight.  Regardless it is of the same ilk, unbelief.  We are no different today.  We must all come to Jesus as both savior and Lord.  Yes, we want saved but we can’t dictate the terms of our salvation.  We must follow him, not because he is headed in the direction that we desire or does what we desire.  We must follow him because he is the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.  We must follow him because he is the only Righteous One.  Become a follower of Jesus today by walking away from the life that your flesh wants to create, whether religious or not, and letting him who alone has the words of life lead you forward no matter what that may look like.

When God calls your bluff audio

Tuesday
Oct182016

Society under Siege: Drug Abuse

Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:12-13; Galatians 6:6-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 16, 2016.

Although drugs have been around in one form or another throughout the history of our nation and even all of mankind, it has really been since the 1950’s that our society has become inundated with them.  Of course through the years we have made a distinction between medicinal drugs and illicit drugs.  Our purpose is not to go into that today other than to recognize that there can be a legitimate use of drugs.  Churches today are challenged by the difficulty of helping people who are stuck in drug addiction and whose lives are spiraling out of control.

Those who desire help to get out of the grip of drugs have many problems.  Some of them are the physical addictions that can occur.  Others are the mental, coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and continually turn back to the false peace of a drug.  The shame and guilt that such a person feels can push them further and further away from the very people they need around them. I believe that this onslaught of drugs in our nation is orchestrated and promoted by the evil, spiritual powers that seek to destroy the Gospel of Christ.  War is not easy.  But, if we are to help people, we cannot surrender to the temptation to either push people away because they keep turning back to drugs, or redefine what is good.  Some segments within the Church are being swayed by reasoning that overlooks the dangers of drug abuse and how people end up stuck in it.

How We Live Matters

In Romans Paul has written to the Corinthians about many ways that they are living and the morality or theology behind them.  Their theology and lives were being affected by the culture around them.  This is true of the Church in the United States of America.  Increasingly modern Christians have been surrendering certain areas by saying that they are no longer moral issues.  We determine that abortion is no longer immoral and thus encourage women in a destructive path.  We are beginning to do the same with drugs.  Many ideas are coming together to promote a theology of drugs that basically says it is not a moral issue.  This is a tactical mistake.

In chapter 12 of the letter to the Romans Paul reminds believers that their lives should be lived as a sacrifice to God.  Paul calls it a “living sacrifice” because the imagery is going from the very literal sacrifices they were used to seeing to the spiritual sacrifice of putting to death our fleshly desires for the glory of the purposes of God.  In fact, both Christians and those who do not believe live a life of dying.  The important question is, “To what am I dying?”  The Lost live a life surrendering to the desires of their flesh and their spirit/soul dies in its ability to connect with God.  Whereas the Christian surrenders to the desires of the Holy Spirit and their fleshly desires are put to death.  Of course, this is a daily thing.  So Christians are called to live life in a way that is following the Spirit of God and not the desires of our flesh.  Paul calls it our holy and acceptable sacrifice.

The term “holy” means that we are not for the common use.  Our lives have been set apart for a divine purpose and not a common purpose (i.e. what everyone else is doing).  Also, the term acceptable is often used in a negative way.  In other words, “OK, I guess that is barely good enough.”  That is not what this word means in this translation.  Our lives are not to be lived so as to be barely good enough.  Rather, the word has the meaning of that which is pleasing.  So our sacrifice is to live for God’s purposes, not our own (holy), and to offer that which is pleasing to God.  It is my contention that the Holy Spirit is not leading people to take drugs, especially recreationally, and that they promote a lifestyle that is anything but pleasing to God.

Paul also brings up the issue of conforming to this world’s way of living.  Conformity focuses on the outward shape without a true change of the nature of a person.  Thus a person who has murderous intentions in their heart can conform to the pressure of society to not act on that impulse.  However, their nature has not changed.  Conformity is temporary by nature.  Thus many people live a life of continually taking on new shapes that conform to the templates that the world gives us (like Play Dough).  So whether you take on the template of a driven business person, who doesn’t do drugs, or you take on the template of the person without a job doing drugs in mom’s attic, both are templates that this world offers in opposition to what Jesus has called us to.  So you may think you have your life in order, but many times you have conformed to the world in a different way.  Also, many people who take drugs seem to think that they are somehow breaking out of the system and going their own way.  This too is self-delusion.  Yes, we do need a better template, and Jesus can be that.  However, He is more than a template.

Paul places the word “transformation” against this conformity.  In fact, many churches have lost sight of this difference.  Transformation is a change of nature, not just outward shape.  We must be careful that our discipleship does not become focused on merely changing the shape of people’s lives.  Without an inner transformation they will only be taking on a religious template that is conformity to the world in the end.   Paul says that our transformation comes by the renewal of our mind.  This is precisely the problem.  We are told by someone that our lives should look a certain way.  But in the end we are not learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and say no to our flesh.  The Pharisees had just such a religion: all conformity and no transformation.

The renewal of our mind definitely starts with a moment of believing in Jesus and God placing a new spirit within us.  However, it continues day by day as we work each day to have our thinking renewed back to the way God intended it.  How do we do this? 

First, we have to counter the continual barrage of antichrist ideas and lifestyles that wear down our mind by meditating on the Word of God.  In John 8:32, Jesus tells us that “…the truth shall set you free.”  The problem with lies is that no matter how good they make your life in the short term, they cannot lead to long term good.  Why?  They can’t because they refuse to deal with reality, to deal with Truth.  Daily prayer is the place where we converse with God about what His Word reveals and what His Spirit is leading us to do.  It is the daily maintenance of the transformation that God is doing in our life.  We also need the fellowship of other believers around us.  When we are surrounded by those with a worldly mentality, we will be like the frog in the kettle, slowly being boiled to death.  Fellow believers give us a sounding board that can help us when we are knocked down or coming under deception.

When our mind is renewed to think like Jesus rather than the world, our life will be transformed.  Paul says that then we will prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.  God’s will always leads to good in the long term.  The word “perfect” has more the idea of complete or lacking nothing.  When we follow God’s will we are lacking nothing that we need.  This is important when you think about how the Devil tempted Eve into eating the fruit.  He got her to believe that God’s will wasn’t perfect (enough).  Of course the word acceptable like we already mentioned means that which is pleasing to God.  Our life and the results of our decisions become living proof to ourselves and to the people around us that God’s will is good and lacks nothing. 

So take time to scrutinize God’s Word and determine what is good and then live it out.  This will confirm that God knows what He is talking about.  Take time to pray about how to do that and for the strength to do it.  You will be a living example to others that the “sacrificial life” is truly life indeed.

So What is Wrong with Drugs?

So we come back to this question whether you ask it in regards to our society or in regards to being a Christian.  Why not just legalize all drugs?  In some ways legalization is a red-herring.  It sounds like an answer, but not really.  When drugs are “legalized” there will most likely be more laws on the books regarding their sale, distribution, and use (think in terms of “legal” alcohol).  It is legal to drive a car across town.  But don’t think for a second that legality solves all the problems of an issue.  Thus there will always be laws and legalizing drugs will not solve the problems that come with drugs.  The real question is, “What is good for a person,” and, especially for Christians, “What reflects the image of God that we see in Christ?”  Contrary to popular conception, Jesus would not be hanging out in some mother’s attic with his disciples smoking weed.  Why?

The first reason is that drugs affect the mind away from Christ.  The Spirit of God has always used His Word and the experiences in our life to transform our minds.  The life-giving method of God is to speak truth to people in the midst of their difficulties.  Drugs, however, debilitate a person’s ability to reason, and not just when you are high.  The mind-altering effects are both physical and logical.  Our life becomes fixated on the desires of our flesh rather than on the Spirit of God.  Now we need to also recognize that drugs can open our mind to spiritual experiences.  Throughout history many cultures have used drugs in order to make it easier to contact the spirit realm.  Here is the problem.  God does not use this method.  No holy prophet in the Bible ever used drugs in order to get a message from God.  This was a method used by the pagan religions with their fallen angel “gods.”  So even if you use drugs for a “spiritual” purpose, you will only connect with deceiving, lying spirits that seek to use you against Christ and His people.

Another aspect of this mind-altering effect is a false sense of euphoria.  Though a person may be able to “feel good” for a short time, it becomes a feeling that is harder and harder to achieve.  So you head down a path that destroys your ability to have a real life and allows you to have a temporary “feel good” moment in the midst of crushing pain and sorrow.  This is even worse than the picture in the movie “The Matrix.”  At least there they weren’t aware of their condition.  But, the person on drugs is continually trying to escape the increasing hell of their life.  On the flip side, God offers a person the ability to have peace and joy even in the face of the worst situations imaginable.  When Jesus went to the cross, he did not “feel good.”  But he did have clarity about what His actions would achieve.  He would be paving the way for relationships that He would have with millions in the future.  He faces the “bad feelings” of living for God in this wicked world, in order to receive the eternity of joy with new brothers and sisters.

Lastly drugs impair our ability to function.  We become less and less able to deal with life around us.  Even when a person joins up with a gang or group of like-minded friends, we may be able to get along for awhile.  But, in the end the drugs are sucking out your life like a vampire, and putting the poison of death into everything that you have.  If drugs only did this it would be reason enough to reject them.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 we have a passage where Paul is responding to some statements that the Corinthians themselves had written in their letter to him.  The first statement from the Corinthians is “All things are lawful for me.”  I can only assume they are referring to the fact that they are no longer under the Law of Moses.  Thus in their mind they could do whatever they wanted as long as they called themselves Christians.  Instead of arguing about the lawfulness of what they were doing, Paul goes along with them.  Basically he says, “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but not all things are helpful (beneficial). “  He then states it again but differently.  “Yes, all things are lawful for you, but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”  So notice the two points Paul makes.  Basically he is pointing out that legality is itself a red herring.  Legality is moot for the Christian.  What is important is whether or not something is good for me (i.e. helps me be more like Jesus) and that it doesn’t enslave me.   You can argue about whether or not you are “addicted,” but being enslaved to something is not about just a physical need for something.  Drugs and the desire for their effects becomes a controlling thing in people’s lives.  You will find yourself rationalizing things that you would have never done before you started taking them.  Even if you start out trying to keep focused on God’s things, this will die off as you keep pushing away the Spirit of God.  When our police officers go into the homes of people who are trapped in a life of drugs, they witness that people are complete slaves to the drugs.  It becomes their god and they sacrifice everything (family, kids, jobs, etc…) in order to please it.

Galatians 6:6-7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”  If we do not follow Christ we are actively destroying our life.  I end with these verses because this is really what it is all about: not being deceived.  Can we use drugs medicinally?  Of course, we can.  However, medicine should never become a controlling and addicting thing in our life.  Medicine is not given to people because they enjoy how it makes them feel.  Rather, it is taken to help restore something that is wrong in the body.  Thus we have a system of prescriptions from doctors and controls on drugs that can be beneficial if used correctly.  I do not have time to deal with the fact that not all medicines are as good as they purport due to the desire of drug companies to make money.

Quit asking yourself what is biblically legal and start asking what will make you more like Jesus.  If we are not becoming more like Jesus then we are decaying into the destruction of our life, and perhaps even our soul.  In this way drugs are just another rabbit trail that the Devil uses to side-track us from Jesus and towards destruction.

The world has gotten good at the physical side of helping people through withdrawals and detoxification.  However, it is has little to offer for the spiritual side of a person.  Even 12 step programs can be so watered down that the spiritual truth gets pushed out.  Your child or spouse cannot be your higher power.  You need Jesus in your life.  You need to be touched by God and made alive to His Holy Spirit.  The only way to truly be free in this life is to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and then trust the way that He has told us to live.  This includes the apostles that He authorized to go out and teach the nations how to follow him.  Blessings.

Under seige: Drugs

Tuesday
Sep182012

Our Present Life

We continue our walk through the New Testament book of First Peter and will look at chapter one verses 13-15 today. 

After reminding believers of the testing trials of this life, Peter then moves to encourage them in their everyday life.  Starting in verse 13 we have three exhortations that appear to be commands.  However, only one of them is commanded, where the other two are put out as descriptions of how to do the main command.  Can you figure out which is which?  By consulting other versions you can discover that the main command has to do with our Hope.

We Must Hope To The End

Is that correct?  Is Peter really commanding them to Hope?  Is that possible?  It is just as possible as our other command to love.  We tend to think of love and hope as feelings.  Peter is not commanding them to have “hopeful” feelings.  Rather he is talking about an action that we can choose to do.  Thus, just as love is a decision, so Hope is a decision too. 

Hope always has a future thing for which it is waiting.  So the decision here is not even about deciding to feel.  Rather it is the decision to keep waiting for that promised grace that is to be revealed at the second coming of Jesus.  The object of our hope can change because of difficulties and trials in life.  We can give up and even place our hopes on other things (perhaps even things that are not godly).  That is the decision we have to make every day in the midst of tough times.  Will I keep hoping in the grace I will receive at Christ’s coming, or will I hope for something “realistic.”  Though we are daily receiving grace from God, it is still only a portion of the fuller grace that has been promised.  There is a wonderful day ahead of us where our status as children of God will be not just revealed, but we will also receive immortal bodies that are not tainted by the sin nature.  Peter commands them to not give up that hope.  The challenge is not just to fully hope in that grace as if we had a “hope-ometer” that needs to be pegged at 100% all the time.  Rather the picture is that of a finish line or a goal.  If we are going to obtain the grace then we need to keep our hope pinned on it until we reach it.

So how can we not lose hope in God’s amazing promise in the light of this world’s trials and reminders that we are not there yet?  This is where the phrases, girding up the loins of the mind, and being sober come into play.

Girding up the loins, or waist, of your mind is a strange phrase.  It is a picture of first century clothing.  The robes they wore would have a tie or belt that kept them held shut.  If you were going outside you would tie your robe shut.  Or if you were going to do some physical labor you might even need to hike up the robe and tie it off in a way that would not encumber your feet and legs.  When this is used of the mind it is clear that a mental issue is involved.  It speaks of preparation.  What mental preparations do I need to make so that I will not be tripped up and restricted in this challenge to hope to the end?  First I need to recognize that my own desires can pull me away from it.  Also, the schemes of our enemy, satan, are focused on aiding this.  Mentally I need to be aware of those things that would keep me from the grace God has for me and prepare for them.

The phrase “be sober” also points to preparation.  However, the issue is different.  In the first I need to make preparations.  In the other, I need to refrain from things that could affect my ability to hope adversely.  Think of how alcohol affects a person in the natural state.  It causes people to lose their inhibitions and self control.  It causes people to lose their awareness of things around them.  It can even eventually lead to losing consciousness and death.  Though the believer should stay away from drunkenness, Peter is speaking spiritually and mentally here.  We need to be sober in the sense that we are not “drunk” from drinking in the lusts of our flesh.  Those who live to please their flesh, will become spiritually drunk.  They will begin to lose inhibitions and eventually any control on their fleshly appetites.  This will lead to a loss of awareness of their true spiritual condition.  They will think everything is alright.  But to any sober minded person they will be clearly out of control.  Eventually a loss of spiritual consciousness can occur.  This is where a person is unable to receive any stimuli from the Lord, whether through the cautions of others, injunctions in the Scriptures, or the pressings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will lose sight of the hope and degenerate into only hoping for the “next fix” for their fleshly appetites.   Let’s face it.  Satan uses the love of our flesh for the desire of this world to get us spiritually drunk.  This tactic is quite effective on those who are not mentally prepared.

We Must Be Holy

The next two verses focus on how we need to be a reflection of the one we are following.  If God’s promised grace at the coming of Jesus is what we are hoping FOR, then Jesus himself is what we are IN or ON.  We can have hope for the future because of the one on whom our hopes are placed.  There is a relationship between faith and hope.  Whatever you are putting your faith in will affect what your hope is.  Yet Peter is more focused on how the enemy derails our faith and hope.  Satan uses the impure desires of our flesh for the things of this world.  Ife we are to truly follow Jesus then it will involve a focus on being holy.  So what does that mean?

The simplest understanding of holy is the idea that something has been set apart for a divine purpose.  It is not to be used for ordinary purposes even though it may be very ordinary.  It is not the inherent quality of the thing but the fact that it has been set apart that makes it holy.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then through him God has decreed that you are for His holy purposes.  In the Bible we see Belshazzar of Babylon using the holy cups and bowls of the temple for a drunken party.  This angers God and he loses his kingdom.  However, when it comes to people, we are not inanimate objects.  We can make choices to be involved in purposes that are contrary to God’s purposes.  We don’t pursue holiness as if we could attain it.  Rather we cooperate with the holiness that God has given to us in Jesus.  We can either walk in harmony with that holiness or we can fight against it.

This is why Peter gives the analogy of an obedient child.  A child doesn’t always understand why mom and dad won’t let it do whatever its little heart desires.  It has a choice.  Obedience is not a matter of becoming a son or daughter.  It is a matter of cooperating with the reality that I belong to God because I AM his child.  If we please ourselves then Satan will succeed in getting our hopes pinned on the lusts of this world and eventually robbing us of our heavenly inheritance.  Are you about your father’s business?  Or are you in the business of pleasing your flesh?

When Scripture says, “be holy for I am holy,” it is reminding us of our nature.  We were created to reflect God.  God is holy therefore our lives should reflect that holiness.   This is not out of some puritanical prudishness.  But rather out of protection against the spiritual unconsciousness that results in the life of those who pursue the lusts of the flesh.  Those are the things we pursued in our former ignorance, before we knew Jesus and God’s love for us.  But now that we know what he has done for us and is bringing us to we need to watch our lives guardedly and keep our hopes fixed on Jesus who brings the completion of God’s grace with him.  Maranatha!

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