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Sunday
Jul092017

Our Great Joy in Jesus

1 Peter 1:3-9.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 09, 2017.

Today we will spend some time in a passage that focuses on the joy that we have as believers in Jesus Christ.  It is easy to let the things of the world around us drag our hearts down into a dreary drudgery.  We see individuals rejecting the gospel and plunging down the “wide way,” and we see the nations of the world rejecting the ways of God and pursuing their own ways.  In the midst of this is the onslaught of both individual and political evils that continue to tear the world apart and create massive suffering.  So I want us not to forget about the world’s plight, and yet not to be infected by a spirit of hopelessness.  The follower of Jesus has nothing to hang their head over.  We are never defeated or losers.  We are the true overcomers as we keep our eyes upon Jesus and the mission that He gave us.

We Give Thanks to God

In verses 3-5, Peter starts out by thanking God for His blessings and yet he is also reminding the believers of the blessings that they have.  And so, we do have much to be thankful for, and it all finds its source in God the Father.  He is the architect of creation, and the giver of life and all its wonderful aspects.  Am I thankful?  And, do I take time to thank God?  We should wake every morning and recount the amazing blessings with which God has surrounded us.  He has been good to us and grateful thanks should be the foundation of our daily life.

In fact Peter uses the phrase, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It could also be translated as “Praise the God…”  Our praise is the proper acknowledgment that is actually due to God.  All creation should praise Him, but not all of creation does.  Of course giving God His due praise speaks to those who are not doing so.  But to us who do praise Him, it should not be about duty and obligation.  It should be about gratefulness and thanks.  Our thanks and praise rises up to God in the midst of a world that takes God’s goodness for granted, and a spiritual realm that has a rebellion against Him.  The devil and his angels believe that they can do better than God and are ungrateful for His decisions.    We are those who have rebelled against the rebellion, and have put our faith in Jesus.  We are not under the shadow of judgment, but can see and recognize the goodness of God.  Because of this, we are the recipients of the greater treasures that God is in the middle of giving to those who trust Him.

Peter particularly points out the “abundant mercy” of God.  He is not obligated by justice to give us mercy.  However, He is kind, loving, and merciful.  Salvation always begins with the mercy of God and we must never forget that.  His holiness and justice would come against our lives and bring us to account and to punishment.  But in His mercy, God makes a way for us to be saved from punishment.  He holds out the offer of eternal life to those who will trust Him.  So what are some of these mercies?  Peter lists some for us.

He uses the phrase, “He has begotten us again.”  This is very similar to the phrase used by Jesus in John 3:3, “You must be born again.”  We are all born physically and because of the will of two humans.  Yet, we are not spiritually alive.  Thus all humans are in need of being “born again,” but not physically.  This second birth is a spiritual birth and is because of the will of God, not man.  Even though we are alive to the world around us, we are spiritually unable to recognize and interact with the God who created us.  If we were to use the analogy of a still birth, we can think of it like this.  Though a still born physically exists, they cannot interact with the physical world around them.  Similarly, though we do have an inner spirit, it is still born towards the Holy Spirit of God.  It will never be able to sense and interact with God unless a spiritual miracle occurs. The analogy is not perfect, but it does help to see what the Bible is saying.  This is called being born again.  So to compare the two births we have this.  Physical birth is the first birth, caused by humans, in which we are able to interact with the physical world.  Being born again is Spiritual birth, a second birth, caused by God, in which we are able to interact with the Spirit of God.  What a blessing and mercy this is.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  In John 1:12-13 we are told that such a birth makes us the children of God.  “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

So why has God made us spiritually alive?  Peter says it is for the purpose of receiving a “living hope.”  Regardless of what our lot is in life because of our physical birth, our spiritual birth leaves all of that in the dust.  All that we might hope for in this life will one day be taken away from us.  Thus it is a hope, but a dying one.  Our spiritual birth gives us hope of things that cannot be taken away, even in physical death.  If a person is born into royalty or a family of great power, that is nothing compared to being born again in Jesus.  Even, if I have been born into squalor and have little hope in the things of this world, in Christ I have a living hope that is so much greater than anything this world can offer.  Peter further describes this living hope.  It is a living hope because of “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  It is living because it is based upon the living Jesus.  He is alive and can no longer die.  Similarly because our hope is in Him, even if we die physically our hope cannot die because it is in one who cannot die again.  Even more than this, we believers in Jesus are promised a day of Resurrection in which we will fully join Christ in that state of eternal life through a body that cannot die and a spirit that dwells in the presence of God every second.  Thus even our physical death because an entering into the presence of the Lord of Life.  What a living hope we have in Jesus!

Peter also describes this living hope as “incorruptible,” and “reserved in heaven” for us (vs. 4).  It is called an inheritance because there is a future aspect to what God is giving us.  Yes, I have eternal life already, but I have not received all that eternal life has to offer, yet.  Thus he uses the word “hope.”  We are already experiencing some of His promises now and thus the hope that is future is already “living” within us and blessing us.  Peter uses several words to show that this hope is secure for the ages.  It is incorruptible, and will not decay or go bad.  There is no expiration date on the promises of God.  It is also “undefiled.”  It is a hope that is untainted by the sin and rebellion of this world.  No matter how much the rebels of this world hope in a Utopia, it is a defiled hope.  They will continually slam up against the reality that the hope is tainted by the sin of mankind and the fallen angels.  Lastly, Peter says that it doesn’t “fade away.”  It is a hope that will not lose its luster and beauty.  This world fades and dims, but our hope does not.  It is reserved in heaven for us.  Thus it is safe in God’s hands, and guarded by none other than God Himself.  If God be for us who can be against us?  On this earth our inheritance and blessings are always in danger of others who may want to steal it, but the inheritance of God cannot be touched by any, not even the devil himself.

However, God does more than just guard our inheritance.  In verse 5 it says that we ourselves are guarded by the power of God.  The same God who guards our inheritance is also insuring that we can make it to that inheritance.  The word “kept” in verse 5 is similar to the word “reserved” in verse 4.  They both have the sense of guarding something.  However, the word in verse 5 adds the sense of a military guard.  It has a higher sense of protection to it.  Thus God stations His forces around us, to ensure that we make it to the day of inheritance, which is the completion of our salvation (notice the future sense of salvation in this verse- more on that later).  The only thing that can derail it is our own faith.  Satan cannot win by destroying us physically, financially, or emotionally.  But, he uses those things to try and destroy our trust in God.  Now, God doesn’t just put a carrot in front of us.  He also protects us along our way to make sure that we will be able to dine upon it.  All of this is “through faith,” our faith in Him.  This living hope and inheritance from God cannot be earned or purchased by the power of this world.  It can only be the gift of God to those who trust Him.

Our Thanks Endure Even Our Various Trials

In verses 6-9, Peter acknowledges that Christians go through difficult things, even though they have much to be joyful.  It is easy to be so focused on making people look happy that we can forget that there is a time to cry, and a time to mourn.  We must deal with the difficult things of life, not by shutting them down, but by overcoming them.  They devil is trying to disqualify us through those trials and tests of life.  But God allows them for the purpose of proving that we qualify and ultimately making us stronger.

So let’s look first at how the trials of life can grieve us for a little while.  Do not make light of the emotional side of trials.  They are difficult and tend to weigh us down with an internal heaviness.  God does not call us to be unfeeling automatons, or robots.  As we grieve and yet remind ourselves of the goodness of God, our faith in God can be deepened.  We can also understand the depths of God’s love towards us.  Trials also help us to see the depths to which our enemy will stoop in order to try and disqualify us.  If we shed tears in this life, then we can shed them knowing that God sees them and will keep a record of them.  He will right every wrong and then bring us to a place where we will cry no more and have pain no more.  And, on that day, He will reward us for those tears and pains of this life that we endured while hanging on to the promise of eternal life, our living hope.  The enemy, however, wants to drown us in our sorrows and difficulties.  He wants us to blame God for our pains, so that we will lose faith in God and walk away from our inheritance.

Peter reminds us in verse 7 that these tests prove our faith.  Have I really trusted in God?  If God stepped in and removed every difficult thing in our life then we would never truly know if our faith is founded on solid ground.  In a sense many people say, “God I trust you, if You keep everything from hurting me.”  This is not trust.  Yet, Job said, “Even if God slay me, yet I will trust Him!”  Some follow Jesus because of what they obtain in this life: people who care for you, and love you, among other comforts of life.  But what about when I lose all of those things?  Like John the Baptist sitting in prison about to lose his head, we can begin to question and waver in our faith in Jesus.  Thus the picture of trials being a refining fire is used by Peter.  The trials are called various because there are innumerable ways to be tried in this life.  Some are seductive, with hidden motives, and we can enjoy their presence to some degree.  Others are brutish, with the obvious motive to overwhelm and destroy us.  Typically we do not enjoy these.  But our faith, Peter says, is more precious than gold.  We are tempted by things that are really not as precious as we think.  The truth about our faith will be made clear at the “revelation of Jesus,” which is His Second Coming.  This will be our glory and honor in the day that He returns: we world will see that we belong to Him.

In verse 8 He commends them for their faith and love for Jesus.  They are keeping their eyes on Jesus even in the face of trials.  Peter had seen Jesus with his own eyes.  But then Jesus was taken into heaven and now Peter no longer can see Jesus.  He must use the eyes of faith, trust.  Even harder it is for those who had never seen Jesus in the flesh.  They are taking the witness of Peter, and the Holy Spirit.  They have come to love this Jesus that they have learned about.  They are not about to be scammed out of the inheritance they have in Jesus.  So also, keeping our eyes upon Jesus, we await that day when He will split the clouds and return to earth.  Even if I die, I do so keeping my trust upon the one who said, “He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”  Our love for Jesus is birthed in the love that He had for us.  He died in my place even while I was still a rebel against Him.  He did so to make an inheritance for me with Him.  He paid the price that I might sit with Him at the Father’s table.  He purchased us back from the place of slavery to which we had sold ourselves.  And, He does this to make us His beloved ones.  In the words of Paul, “[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. 

So this love that Jesus has for us and that we have for Him fills us with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.  In the face of our own death, His death and resurrection assures us that He loves us and will keep His word.  The daily joy that we have as a Christian should never be based upon the earthly joys and comforts that we have.  Yes, we should be thankful for any such things that we experience.  But they must never be the foundation of our joy.  The foundation of our joy is the relationship of love that Jesus has given to us.  As the old song says, “I’ve got something the world can’t give, and the world can’t take it away!”  It is called inexpressible or unspeakable because it goes beyond the ability of words to fully express.  Not that we don’t express our thanks, but that they too fall short.  “O, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemers praise, the glories of our God and King, the triumphs of His grace.”  So we continue to describe to people that which can never be fully expressed.  Such is the joy of the believer.  It is also described as “full of glory” because it is given by God Himself.  Glory is often described as brilliant light in the spirit realm (within Scripture).    God has given us Himself and the glorious shining of God sits at the center of our heart and life like a blazing sun.  Thus our joy and faith in Him, which is set on fire by the blazing glory of God, cannot be extinguished by the devil. 

In the midst of such glorious joy, Peter says we are receiving the salvation of our souls.  In fact this is part of the joy.  I may endure a difficult trial, but it is part of me receiving something much better.  Verse 5 speaks of our salvation in the future, but verse 9 speaks of it as a present thing.  That is because we are in the process of receiving a salvation that will one day be completed at the second coming of Christ.  Thus we can look back to the day that we began receiving salvation, we can look around at our current salvation, and we can look forward to its completion at the Second Coming of Christ!  Amen!

Our Great Joy audio

Tuesday
Aug162016

The Lord’s Song Request

Isaiah 27:2-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 14, 2016.

Today we are continuing the celebration that will occur in Israel at the return of Jesus.  At this point Isaiah picks up the image of a vineyard that belongs to the Lord, which he had used earlier in chapter 5.  In chapter 5 he tells Israel that they were the vineyard that belongs to the Lord.  But they kept producing wild grapes.  No amount of work by the Lord’s workers could make them produce good grapes.  Thus God would remove their defensive wall, withhold the rains, and allow the briars and thorns take over the vineyard.  This was a picture of the situation leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon, as well as the second exile into the nations of the world in the first century.  At that point it would look like everything that God was doing (or perhaps not doing) was destroying Israel.  This passage reminds us that no matter how bad things get, God is always working for our good.  In the end, God will have a good vineyard that produces good grapes.  It is easy to get discouraged in the middle of God’s work in your life.  Sometimes it feels like He isn’t protecting you and bringing good to you.  However, in the end He will always prove true and faithful to those who cling to Him in faith.

A New Day for God’s People

Just as the people were singing a song of rejoicing in chapter 26, here the Lord calls for a song to be sung to or over his people.  The emphasis is on the fact of the celebratory song and not on who will be singing.  Is it the survivors who make it through the tribulation?  Is it the angels of God?  Or, is it Jesus himself?  I bring up that last option because Zephaniah 3:17 pictures the same context of Israel singing and the Lord himself rejoicing over them with singing.  Regardless the song reflects the new disposition that the Lord will have for His people.  No longer is he giving them up to the briars and thorns.  Instead, it is a new day as the Lord comes to His vineyard and makes it a fruitful one.  Instead of bringing forth sour grapes they will now bring forth good grapes.  Jesus used this theme of fruitfulness in John 15 when he said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (vs. 5-6).  Jesus is not just challenging those who would turn him away, he is also encouraging those who would connect to him.  He essentially says to us that we will be fruitful and pleasing to the Father when we draw our life from Him.

In verse 3 we see that the Lord will care for the vineyard personally.  He will be their keeper and their watchman.  He will water it.  In the Old Testament rain and dew were metaphors for the revelation and teaching of God.  Thus, God will no longer be silent, but instead He will water them “every moment.”  That is not to say He will over water them.  Rather, it is the idea that at every moment he will ensure they have exactly what they need.  This picture is strong in the sense of defense, but it is also gentle in the care that God gives to His people.  He will speak to them and teach them and they will grow and be fruitful.

In verse 4 He mentions that He has no wrath in Him.  This makes perfect sense in light of chapter 24.  There God has poured out His full wrath upon the earth.  Thus this vineyard is on the other side of God’s wrath.  He is done bringing judgment.  His justice has been satisfied.  The Second Coming of Jesus will complete the wrath of God upon the earth.  Thus we will enter into a new day in which wrath is behind us, and we can now move forward into the good that God has planned for us.

The rest of verse 4 and 5 recognize the fact that there is really no one who would or could come against God in battle.  Initially it has the feeling of recognizing that there is no one left to do so.  But, as a prophecy, it is also a warning back to those who would join the rebellion of the wicked.  There is no way they can win.  Thus those who are not on God’s side have a choice to make.  They can try to attack God in rebellion, in which case they will certainly lose.  Or, they can take hold of his strength and make peace with Him, which they most certainly can do.  Taking hold of God’s strength is reminiscent of Jacob when he came back from Laban to Canaan.  As He approached the Jordan we are told that the Angels of God met him.  At that point Jacob sends his family on ahead and stays over night by himself in the place that he called “double camp” (double in the sense that there was his camp and a heavenly camp of angels).  All night he wrestles with the Angel of the Lord. He refuses to let go until he is blessed.  Thus, we will either take hold of God for war (and no doubt lose), or we can take hold of God for a blessing of peace with Him.  The first person is holding on to their own strength.  They refuse to accept help from God.  But the second person recognizes their need and grabs hold of God’s strength.  Those who will trust in God’s strength will find peace with Him.  The Christian life can be seen as a person who refuses to quit trusting in God.  They wrestle with Him in prayer through good and bad times.  Though we may find injuries in this wrestling, it will bring us to blessing.  Ultimately Jesus is the strength of the Lord.  When we put our faith in Him we are taking hold of God’s strength.  God is holding out the hope of grace to those who are His enemies.  Even in the midst of judgment, God is looking for those who would submit and take hold of His strength.

In verse 6 it refers to “those who come.”  These are those who respond to God’s appeal for repentance.  They will have a place in the vineyard of God.  Thus this fruitful vineyard is not just an Israelis thing.  It will be an amalgamation of all the people who respond to the Messiah.   Most often Christians speak of national Israel and the Church as if they will be two separate entities in the future.  Yet, how are we to reconcile that with passages like Romans 11 and Ephesians 2:13-16?  Let’s look at that second passage.  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”  In the day of Christ’s Second Coming, we shall truly be one.  This union will cause a fruitfulness that will fill the earth with the blessing of Jesus.

God’s Judgment will Cleanse His People, Not Destroy Them

Starting at verse 7, Isaiah looks at the judgments that will fall upon national Israel.  When they happen it will seem like God is destroying them.  But in the end, it will serve to cleanse and prune them.  The rhetorical questions hammer home the idea that though God would strike Israel, it was not to the same degree that He struck the nations around them.  God’s intention is always to turn us back to Him.  If it is possible at all then His judgments are tempered to help it happen.  That is why verse 8 uses the term “measured.”  He has carefully measured the judgment to accomplish the good purpose.

This scattering of Israel would serve to contend with Israel rather than destroying it.  This contending is definitely physical in the sense of the destruction and removal from the land.  But it is also verbal and internal.  During the day of the east wind (a scorching hot judgment of God’s Spirit), they would hear His rebukes.  But afterwards, they would have opportunity to hear His teachings, and return in repentance.  God is always working to reason with the wicked.  “Why will you die?  Choose life!”  This does not guarantee a person will repent.  But without His gracious deference, repentance would not be possible.

This last verse speaks of the day when Israel’s iniquity is covered.  God’s fury will be satisfied towards Israel by scattering them.  He will cover their iniquity and take away their sin.  We know that this can only be done by Jesus and putting faith in Him.  Thus, in that day, the nation of Israel will en masse become believers in Jesus.  Yes, many are being saved today.  But the nation as a whole is still in rebellion to the Lord.  Zechariah prophesied of a time when God will pour out a spirit of repentance upon the nation and they will see the One whom they pierced and mourn a godly sorrow over their past actions.  Thus, in the millennium, Israel will be believers in Jesus and all believers will be united in one body. 

So what will be the effect of this work of covering Israel’s iniquity?  First God will remove their altars and images.  They will be broken and beaten so fine that they are like dust.  It is sad to see Jews who are rebuilding the altars and preparing to rebuild the temple.  They are still trying to go backwards instead of following the Lord forward.  Through the time of tribulation that will come upon the whole earth, God will bring them to a place of national repentance and salvation.  What a day that will be!

Lord's Song Audio