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Entries in Sanctification (4)

Tuesday
Jul172018

Seeking the Things that are Above II

Colossians 3:12-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 15, 2018.

Seeking the things that are above is a phrase that is used to change our perspective on how we live our life.  We can either live with our heart and mind, which is naturally fixated on the earth, leading us, or we can live with our heart and mind, turned towards heaven and the leadership of Christ.  Our flesh will lead us to destruction, but the leadership of Jesus will lead us to eternal life.

Thus, Christians need to be followers of Jesus in deed and not just in word.  To truly follow someone involves watching what direction they choose and making corrections accordingly.  Similarly, to be a disciple of Jesus, we must do more than just show up for His lessons.  We must actually take time to study the lessons that He teaches and then put them into practice in our lives.  In that way we will truly become more like Him over the course of time.

In our passage today, we will see the why, what, and how of doing this.  This passage will not answer every question that you may have.  However, it will encourage you to be a person who is seeking the things that are above rather than a person who is pursuing the things of this world.

Putting on the New Man

In verses 8-10, Paul has introduced the metaphor of taking off our old man, like you would a set of clothing, and then putting on the new man.  In this metaphor the old man represents my life as led by my own fleshly heart and mind.  The new man is Jesus, and by faith Christians are those who are taking off the old way of life and putting on the new way of life that is directed by Jesus.  Now, this is not intended just to be a nice platitude, but a template for our daily transformation.  This is something we must wake up every day and pray, “Lord, show me where I need to put off the old man today, and strengthen me to put on the new that you have for me.”

Thus verse 12 quickly explains why we should give ourselves to such a task.  The first is that we have been chosen by God.  God chose us for the purpose of becoming like Jesus.  He did not choose us just to warm a pew on Sunday mornings.  Also, this choosing was not based upon the fact that we were better than others around us, but simply because we humbled ourselves, and turned from the wisdom of this world and turned towards Jesus, the wisdom of God.  If I refuse to take off the old man and put on the new man, then I am rejecting the purpose for which God chose me.  In fact, I am ultimately rejecting His choice, period.

The second reason he gives for putting on the new man is because we are holy.  We are not holy because we got our act together better than those who are not.  We are holy because when we were chosen by God, He also set us apart for His holy purposes.  Those purposes do include taking the good news about Jesus and His salvation to all people, even to the ends of the earth.  However, we cannot preach salvation if it is not happening in our daily life.  Salvation is more than a legal standing before God.  It is also something that God does in our life every day as we listen to Him and find deliverance from our old man.  The foundation of the Gospel is God’s ability to take the worst of sinners and enable them to become like Jesus, the sinless one.  It is Jesus who purchased us with His blood on the cross, and He did so in order that we would become like Him.  When we are like Him then we can produce deliverance throughout the earth.  However, to use our life for worldly and selfish purposes would be to profane (use a holy thing for common purposes) what God has made holy.

The third reason he points out for putting on the new man is because we are loved by God.  When you have the love of the Creator, then nothing else matters.  It doesn’t matter when the world rejects me because God loves me.  It doesn’t matter if I am lacking in the things of this world.  In Christ I have everything I need.  He is the one who takes care of my needs.  Thus there are two loves that we must choose between.  We can remain in the love of God and pursue His purposes, or we can remain in love with the world and go after the purposes of our own flesh.  We cannot love both because they are diametrically opposed to one another.  I can’t love the ways of the world and the desires of my own flesh, and still love God.  I will go towards one and away from the other.  When we turn towards God in reciprocal love, then He teaches us how to love the world properly.  The proper way to love the world is to lay down your life that they might live, rather than plunging headlong with them into destruction.  May we love God enough that our hearts are changed regarding the world.  Then we will love people enough to call them back from the edge of destruction.

So what does it look like to put on the new man?  In the second part of verse 12 through verse 14, Paul lists many things that show us what this looks like.  He does so not because we need a checklist to accomplish, but because of the deceptions that Christians encountered then and of course also today.  There is one Lord, Jesus, and we are called to one life, putting Him on.  There are no such things as Christians who are at such a high level that it is now okay for them to do things that the Bible tells us are sin.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  These are listed to guard against error.

The first thing he tells us to put on is tender mercies, also translated compassionate hearts.  This parallels Micah 6:8 where we are told to love mercy enough to live it out in our daily lives.  Thus Christians are told to choose the tenderness of God over the hardness of the world.

The next word is kindness.  Kindness goes beyond doing the right thing.  It involves going beyond.  Jesus helped people, but more than that he did so in a kind manner.  We see such tenderness in John 4 as He talks with the woman at the well.

Next we are told to put on humility.  Humility is the disposition of the mind in which we do not see ourselves as superior or above others.  Christ is above us all and asks us to position ourselves beneath each other, so that we can serve one another in His name.  Of course, this is exactly what He did when He yielded to the cross.  Though He is God, He embraced the lowest place.  How much more ought we to do so?

Next we are to put on meekness.  This word is often defined as strength under control.  Its emphasis is gentleness and being mild-mannered, not because you lack strength, but because the Spirit of God enables you to control yourself.  A meek person is not pushing themselves and their agenda, but leaving room for others and what Christ is doing through them.

Patience in this passage is having a long fuse with others.  It is easy to be short-tempered and easily aroused to anger.  However, Christ is patient and slow to anger.

We are told to bear with one another.  We would probably call it putting up with one another.  Yes, it is not always easy to put up with YOU, just as it is not always easy to put up with ME!  This has more to do with the personality differences and disagreements we may have.  Christ puts up with our pettiness and slowness to follow Him, and He does so because He loves us.  Our flesh is too quick to write others off and refuse to deal with them.  This is not the heart of God.

Then we are told to forgive one another.  Here we get to the parts where may do each other wrong in one way or another.  The heart of God wants to forgive us for our sins and works towards reconciliation.  Thus, those who follow Jesus must also be a forgiving people.  This is one of the hardest things for our flesh to swallow.  Forgiveness is not saying, “It’s OK.”  Rather, it is saying, “I am not going to hold this against you.  It is now between you and God.”  If a person is repentant and wants reconciliation, then we embrace them as Jesus embraced Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in John 21.

Lastly, Paul tells us, “above all these things put on love.”  One way to view these different virtues is to see them as different facets of what it means to love Christ and to love others.  When you love someone you have a tender heart towards them, are kind to them, and humble around them, etc.  When we live out the love of Christ in our life it perfectly binds us to one another.  Genealogy, blood, race, nationality, and any other thing cannot perfectly bind people to one another, but the love of Christ can.  Such love cannot be commanded or forced by any human being.  But, every one of us is led by the Spirit of Christ to let the love of Christ be expressed in our life.

So how can we live in such an incredible way?  Verse 15 transitions to answering this question.  Putting on Christ is a daunting task and an extremely high bar.  How can God expect us to do it?  Paul points us back to Christ as our hope of accomplishing such a task.

The phrase, “let the peace of Christ rule in your heart,” has two parts to it.  First we must let it.  Those who put their faith in Christ are the recipients of His peace.  This is given to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart.  The picture I would use for this situation is when the disciples were with Jesus in a boat on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:39).  The sea represents our heart and all the emotions, desires, and thoughts that can stir up such an internal tempest that we fear for our lives.  Letting Jesus bring His peace into our hearts involves having Jesus in our “boat” in the first place.  But, more than that, we must call out to Jesus and ask Him to quell our inner storms.  When we call on Jesus, He says the words, “Peace, be still!”  Once Jesus calms those fears, emotions and desires, we then must let it rule in our hearts.  The word “rule” means the peace that Christ has brought to us is now calling the shots about what we will think, desire, and feel.  When you let Jesus lead in your life, you are enabled to have an inner peace that directs you without turbulence and chaos.  Clearly, this is something we must do each day.  Our hearts tend towards chaos, but letting Jesus rule in our hearts brings peace.  You don’t do this by yourself and all in one day.  You simply need to let the peace of Christ take up residence in your heart and let Him be your King.  “What are we working on today, Lord?”

Next, we are told to be thankful.  Learning to be thankful in each moment is a difficult thing.  Without the assurance that Christ is with us, it would be an impossible thing.  Thankfulness begins with contentment.  When we are content with what God has provided in our life and the station of life in which we have found ourselves, it transforms how we approach others.  Thankfulness needs to become the atmosphere of our daily life.  Each morning, rise up and thank God for the day, but not because it is an opportunity to get more.  Do so simply because it is another day to be faithful in those good things that the Lord has given you.  Instead of looking to the hills for something better, ask the Lord how you might care for what He has already given you.  When you are faithful with the “little” that He has given you, then perhaps you will find that those little things are far greater than you imagined.  It seems impossible to be able to choose to be thankful.  It involves getting our eyes off of what you don’t have here on earth, and looking towards what you do have there in heaven.  God, help me to see what I have already.  Lord, help me to want to please you, in order that I might be more like you!

Lastly, we are told to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.  Notice that we are to “let” it happen.  God is working to put His Word in us and to have it richly bless our inner life.  This definitely involves reading the Bible, and spending some time in studying it yourself and with others.  However, Jesus is also called the Word.  Thus it is both, the commands that He gives us and He Himself.  Like the glory of God coming upon the tabernacle or the temple of Israel, so we should want the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  We must not only memorize the word of God, but also have the Spirit who spoke it working inside of us that it might be fruitful.  This process of letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is expressed in several ways.  We are told to teach and admonish one another, in the ways of Christ.  Also we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (alone and with others).  God’s people are intended to be a singing people.  We sing not because our voices are so good, but because we have something worth singing about, Jesus!  Our hearts are full of the grace of God, and He is pleased to hear the sound of our hearts as we sing about it.

Paul ends this passage with a powerful statement.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him!  We are representatives of Christ in this world.  How well do I represent Jesus?  To some degree, we all fall short.  However, that is why we are told to bear with one another and forgive each other.  Jesus knows that we will have bumps and scrapes along the way, but He promises to dwell within us and enable us from the inside out.  The path forward is not an easy path, but it is a good one in which God will give us all the resources we need to put on the New Man and become like Jesus.  He will help us to be His spiritual children, amen!

Seeking things II Audio

Tuesday
Sep132016

Society under Siege: Sexual Boundaries

1 Corinthians 6:9-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 11, 2016.

Since the 1960’s a sexual revolution has been going on within our society.  However, in the last decade a “breaking of the dam” has accelerated the pace that Americans are embracing sexual sin.  On one hand we do need to remind ourselves that these sexual sins are not new.  There prevalence in our society may be new, but sexual immorality has enjoyed the embrace of many a society throughout history.  In fact we have not plumbed the depths of sexual immorality.  The Christian foundation that lies beneath this country has been rejected by a steadily increasing number.  We are in the process of replacing the old foundation with a new one.

It is important for Christians to stop themselves, before they wax eloquently against homosexuality and transgenderism, and deal with the truth that we are all drawn to some form of sexual immorality.  Many who are vocal against homosexuality can be guilty of the hypocrisy of pointing out another’s sin without dealing with their own.  The Bible makes it clear that sexual fantasy is sin.  Pre-marital sex is sin.  Adultery is sin.  Divorce for selfish reasons is sin.   The Church has struggled over the last century with these issues as well.  Sometimes we have done well in holding up biblical truth.  Other times we have done poorly at forgiving people whom Christ has forgiven.

We must also remember that sexual sin is not just wrong.  It destroys a person and robs them of life.  Compassion must be the essence of our response, and not a fake compassion that embraces destructive life choices.

The Christian must leave behind the old life

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is dealing with the Corinthian Christian’s who were embracing all manner of sinful activities.  Though they had received the truth of the Gospel of Christ, it had become a blanket absolution for continuing to make sinful choices and live sinful lifestyles (at least for some).  In challenging these Christians, Paul gives a list of sins that they were apparently doing.  This list begins with sexual sins and then includes some non-sexual sins.  The first word is “porneia” in the Greek.  It can cover a range of sexual sin (pre-marital sex, prostitution).  The second word, idolatry, is not actually a sexual sin.  But, throughout the Old Testament idolatry is connected with sexual sin.  The reason is because idolatry is unfaithfulness to God, who is often depicted as a Husband to His people.  In fact, we should note that sexual sin can be so powerful that it often operates as an idol in our life.  We will make any sacrifice in order to please it.  Adultery and Homosexuality are pretty clear.  He goes on to list: thefts, coveting, and drunkenness, which are pretty obvious too.  Revilers are those who use harsh, abusive and caustic accusations against others.  It has the sense of a harsh attack.  Lastly we have a word that is translated as "extortioners" in the NKJV.  It is the same word Jesus used of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inside are “ravenous” wolves.    Thus extortioner probably falls a bit short.  It references ravenous con-men who are out to eat you.  The emphasis for this list is that God did not change His mind at the cross and suddenly decide to let these kinds of people into His kingdom.  Some of the Corinthians were being “deceived” in this matter.  They felt that they could have Jesus and continue living out these sins.  No.  The Christian is called to leave the old life behind.

Verse 11 points out that coming to Jesus involves a real spiritual work that has real effects upon the sin in our life.  They had been washed.  This is a reference to the reality that sin defiles us and must be removed in order for us to be acceptable to God.  It is disingenuous to say that the death of Jesus covers our sin and then continue to pursue it.  Jesus did not wash us so that we can go back out and wallow in the mud.  Next, Paul tells them that they had been sanctified.  This means that God had made a distinction in their life that they were no longer a common person.  They had been set apart as a special person for the work of the Lord.  To say that Jesus has sanctified us and then live the common life that the world is living is also disingenuous.  Lastly the Corinthians had been justified.  To be justified is to be put in a position of acceptability before God.  If these are only spiritually, unseen, things then why would Paul list them?  He is trying to help them see the contradiction between what Christ was doing in their life and what they are doing.  They are working against Christ.  I am not talking about perfectionism, but rather about the real change that happens in the life of a person who rejects their old life and embraces the new life in Christ.

The Christian must leave behind the old lies

In order to leave behind the old life we have to let go of the old way of thinking, and any deceptive lies that would “justify” continuing in what Christ is saving us from.  In verses 12 and 13 Paul takes a couple of statements that the Corinthians would use and rebuts them.  The first is “All things are lawful for me.” It seems that they were taking the truth that Christians are not under the Law of Moses and twisting it to mean that sin doesn’t matter anymore.  This one is still used today.  This idea can be answered a couple of ways.  In Romans 8, Paul reminds Christians that we are still under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  You are either being led by the Spirit of God or by the sinful nature.  So Christians are not under the law of Moses, but neither are they called to “lawlessness.”  Our relationship with Jesus through the Spirit leads us into what is good, and away from what is bad.  Now to the Corinthians Paul approaches it differently.  In verse 12 he counters that not all things are beneficial.  For example, it is technically legal for you stick your hand in a viper’s mouth or on a hot stove.  But why would you?  It is not beneficial.  In fact it can do great harm.  Sin is destructive and those who go after it invite destruction into their lives.  In verse 13 he reiterates their argument, “All things are lawful for me,” and rebuts with the reality that sin is enslaving.  Once you give an inch in these areas, they will begin to dominate your life until you become a slave to unrighteousness and an adulterer against Christ.  This is a dangerous half-truth at best and you will have to reject it if you want to follow Christ.

In verse 13 we have a second Corinthian lie, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  Basically they are saying that what we are doing is natural.  God designed us this way.  In referencing food, Paul is touching on the issue of eating meats sacrificed to idols and yet still keeping it connected to some of the sexual sins listed.  The argument works either way.  God designed us with sexual desires and abilities.  Therefore nothing is wrong with it (they would argue).  We could even go further and say something like this: In the age to come God is going to give us new bodies in a new heavens and earth.  Thus what we do with this one is irrelevant as long as our “spirit” is connected to God.  This kind of reasoning is pure sophistry.  It is a person wanting to do something so bad that they justify it over the top of the truth.  Yes, God did create sexuality and He created man’s digestive system.  In fact, having sex within the bonds of marriage is more than natural.  It is a part of God’s will for many.  But this does not mean that all boundaries are null and void.  Do we eat rocks or poison for that matter?  Why not?  We were not designed for them.  Paul states that the body and its desire for food are going to be destroyed one day (the same is true for sexual desire).  This is meant to sober their thinking.  God did not design us for sexual immorality, but to please His purposes.  Like any designer, God designed sexuality to be expressed a certain way.  Sexual immorality destroys the ability of sexuality to accomplish God’s plan in our lives.  It is also destructive to relationships between people and between us and God.  To go after sexual immorality is not to embrace your design, but rather to reject it.  God’s plan for humans involves laying down this body and the resurrecting of a new glorified body.  Though we will lay down the old body for a new one, the quality or kind of resurrection is dependent upon what we do in this body.  Do we put our trust in Jesus or in our own wisdom?

The last lie is in verses 15-17.  Apparently the Corinthians weren’t saying this, but there is an assumption that underlies their activity and Paul points it out to them.  They are acting as if these sins don’t involve or affect Jesus.  They had compartmentalized their approach to Jesus.  As long as I have a spiritual “faith” in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what I do with my body.  Paul reminds them that their bodies belong to Christ because he bought them with his own blood on the cross.  Thus we are not just the bride of Christ.  We are a bride that he purchased back from slavery and death.  We are in relationship with Him “who knew no sin.”  When we go after sin our unfaithfulness to Christ does affect our relationship with Him.  This brings us to the conclusion of the matter.

The Conclusion

In verse 18 Paul lays out the categorical rejection.  A Christian must flee sexual immorality as defined by God’s Word, not our sophisticated, twisted reasoning.  So why is so much energy spent on trying to justify it?  We do so for the same reasons that people have affairs every day.  Our lips say we love Jesus, but our hearts have quit loving Him.  If you truly love Jesus then you will flee sexual immorality.  Like Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife, we must be people of action.  We must set up protections and accountability so that we are not caught up by the temptations of our flesh.  We must learn to control our thought life, by first controlling the garbage that is coming in, and then focusing our thoughts upon that which is good.

Thus in verse 20 we see that it is more than just freeing our lives of vices.  We must positively do something and that is to glorify God by living the life He has given us to the full.  The vice of adultery is to be rejected.  However, then a husband and wife must learn to give themselves fully to grow in loving another person for life, and for better or worse.  Young people can control themselves and wait until they are married.  Married people can control themselves and mature into the man and woman that God has designed you to be.  To do this you must learn to love your spouse in the various situations that this life will throw at you.  We have a responsibility to glorify God in how we live out our sexuality in this life.  Christians, this world needs role models of God’s plan, a plan to make us all into the image of Jesus Christ.

Sexual Boundaries Audio

Tuesday
May142013

The Holy Spirit Helps Moms

This was Mother’s Day weekend and so we want to be thankful for moms and encourage them.  I am going to use the series we have been doing on the Holy Spirit to do exactly that.  However, I also want this to be an exercise for all of us in which we see how to take biblical truth and apply it to our particular life.

Being a mom is often a thankless job.  We do not want to be like the 9 lepers who did not return and thank Jesus.  We need to often go back to the moms in our life and recognize what they have done for us. 

Now, moms and dads are tasked with raising their family for God and being a continuous influence towards Him on into their lives.  We see this early in the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 6.  Parents are instructed to teach the Word of God and thus the Ways of God to their kids as they go about each day.  It is an on the job learning experience.  Moms, you need to know and trust that the Holy Spirit is helping you in this task.  As we look at the different ways He is helping you, first make sure these are happening in your life and second share these things with your family.

He Helps You Bring Your Family To Salvation

In John 16:8 we are told, “when He [The Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”  The greatest need for any person is to be in right-relationship with God and, thus, to believe on Jesus.  It can be easy to throw our hands up and want to quit when kids seemingly don’t respond as we hope.  In fact, many will continue this into their adult lives causing much grief and sorrow for moms.  Let me just encourage you, mom, that the Holy Spirit hasn’t given up on your kid.  He is working every day to point out their sin, show them what is right, and warn them of judgment.  You might grow weary in these things, but He doesn’t.  Take strength from that.  Keep strong even when you feel unappreciated because God knows how you feel.

Now, God’s best plan is a mom and a dad encouraging each other in this as they cooperate with His Holy Spirit.  However, even a single-mom is not alone in this battle.  God will supply even more grace for those who do not have the best situation.  If your kids are without a father, then trust that in a way you may not understand, God will become their father.  In fact, for yourself, though you be without a husband, God himself will give you extra grace if you will look to Him for it.  Now for us in the Church, we need to have the heart of God that sees those who are “without” and choose to step in and fill up the gap.  Thus we cannot say to moms, “Just trust in Jesus.”  As true as those words are, if we say them so that we don’t do anything, then we are denying the very heart of who Jesus is.

He Helps Moms Set Their Family Apart For God

Romans 15:16 says, “…ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  Like Joshua, we all need to make the resolution, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  Your determination to share Jesus with your family will make a difference that sets them apart from others.  They will think differently from those who have never been taught the ways of God.  So make sure you are in the Word, living the Word, and speaking the Word into your kid’s lives.  Let them see that you too needed the Gospel to cover your sins.  Help them to know that before God you are actually their older sister, just teaching them the ropes.

Yet, moms also need a chance to “recharge.”  God designed us to recharge.  No one can last long without laying down and sleeping at night.  Often stepping away from a project for a moment can open the door to new creativity.  We need times to spiritually, physically and emotionally recharge and these are often closer together than we think.  They really are interwoven together.  When you step away from the task at hand you can grow in understanding that this is not a quick work.  It is a long range plan that works because line upon line, precept upon precept, one layer on top of another layer makes a difference over the long haul.  In fact we need to recognize this in one another and be quick to help each other recharge.  Find someone who “can’t take a break,” and help them get one, or seven. 

He Helps Moms Protect Their Families

Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Raising a family is warfare.  No, you are not fighting your kids, though it may feel like that at times.  First of all know that you must maintain your own spiritual health.  This is the first line of defense.  If Satan can discourage you then your young ones will become fair game as you wallow in despair.

Then be vigilant to demonstrate and teach your family to trust in God’s armor.  Teach them the value and necessity of Truth, Right-actions, Sharing the Gospel, Faith in God, Salvation, The Word of God, and Prayer.  Satan is not afraid of burly, muscle-bound, marines.  But he is afraid of a man or woman who will dare to trust God’s armor enough to make it their daily life.  Your presence in the home will help to protect against all that Satan would be free to do if you were “checked out.”

He Helps Moms Share The Gospel With Their Family

Though we may all feel inadequate to try and convince people of the Gospel, kids are an excellent place to “cut our teeth.”  First of all, they trust you probably more than anyone else.  However, they are difficult at times.  Help your kids to “get” the Gospel.  Though we are to correct our kids, our correction should always have direction.  Sometimes we can be so focused on stopping wrong action that we can forget that we are still sinners saved by grace ourselves.  We can use times of correction to remind kids of the reason why we need Jesus.  Use the correction to turn their eyes into the direction of Jesus and God’s provision for them.

He Helps Moms Pray For Their Family

Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”  Raising kids will drive you to your knees, which is good.  However, we feel so inadequate at times.  The answer is not to tell ourselves that we are all-sufficient.  But rather, it is to recognize that God has promised to help us in our weaknesses.  When we are weak then God’s strength will become more visible.  As you pray for your kids know that God is praying with you.  And, when you are at a loss for what to pray, know that He is not.  The Spirit intercedes for you and on your behalf.  Take encouragement from this reality.

Final Thoughts

We need women who will choose to raise kids for Jesus.  In the midst of a world that looks like it is going to hell in a hand basket, courageous moms who dare to raise kids for Jesus are precious.  Choose to be that woman.  Even if you have failed, know that God can help you stand upon the failures of the past and move forward.  He is all-sufficient and will supply your need no matter how great it is.

We also need a Church that will come alongside of moms and lovingly assist them.  It isn’t easy raising kids and we don’t need a constant reminder of how far short we fall.  But we do need those who will come alongside and help lift us up. 

Lastly, we all need to remember that it is not ALL up to us.  Are you a big part of it?  Yes, of course!  But do you shoulder the sole responsibility?  No.  God Himself is in the harness with you, not to mention the personal responsibility your children have for themselves.  Take time today to rest and say, “Yes, Lord, I will continue to partner with you to point my kids in the right direction.  Amen.”

 

Holy Spirit and Moms Audio

Tuesday
Sep042012

Our Heavenly Inheritance

We are going to start a series where we walk through the New Testament book of 1 Peter.  It is clear that Peter’s main concern is persecution because each chapter deals with it and many of the other subjects are an encouragement to those enduring it.  However, today we are going to be dealing with the inheritance that we have in Christ.

Who Is Writing

In order to set the stage, we want to recognize that this is a letter from the apostle Peter.  Peter was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus that lived with him wherever he went.  Within this group Peter was one of three who were closest to Jesus.  In fact, Peter is actually a nickname that Jesus gave to him.  Some try to make Peter out to be the head Apostle and first Pope, however, it is clear from Scripture that this is simply not true.  In Acts 15 we do not see Peter presiding over the council and decreeing God’s will ex cathedra.  Rather we see all the apostles speaking what God has been saying to them and coming to a consensus about what the Holy Spirit wanted them to do.  Also, though Peter eventually ended up in Rome and was put to death there, he does not appear as the first Bishop of Rome, nor was he the instrument to raise up a church in Rome.  This is not to diminish Peter, but rather to clarify who it is who is writing.  He is an apostle of Jesus; one who was sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel to the world alongside of the work of other apostles.

Who Received the Letter

This letter was written specifically to believers who had been spread out from Jerusalem due to persecution.  Believers went many directions to many places.  Here Peter describes areas that are in what we would call central and northern Turkey today.  Though some try to say these are Jewish believers, I don’t believe that is Peter’s point in speaking of the “dispersion.”  Most early Christians were Jewish by the fact that it started in Jerusalem.  So clearly there are many Jews in this group if not most of them.  The dispersion is not a reference to the overall Jewish Diaspora that had been going on, but rather to the issues of Acts 8:4 when persecution of Christians by fellow Jews caused them to disperse and scatter into the surrounding nations.  What Satan meant for evil God meant for good.  Thus the Gospel was spread beyond Jerusalem at a faster rate than would have occurred under the believer’s own direction.

Peter reminds them that they are “elect” (literally chosen) by God.  God chose them according to his foreknowledge.  God knows in advance what men will chose and how they will respond and He made a choice.  He did not choose to save the strongest or the wisest, but rather to save the humble.  Thus even the strongest and wisest can be saved, if they will humble themselves.  God did not choose our works of righteousness but rather chose a path of salvation that required men to confess their sin, humble themselves before God and put their trust in His righteousness, specifically in Jesus Christ.  Remember that God  has chosen you to salvation and to an inheritance not because of your great works, but because of simple trust in Him. 

They are chosen by God “in sanctification of the Holy Spirit.”  Sanctification is when we are set apart by God for his purposes.  That sanctification has aspects that are immediate and some that are ongoing.  When we believe in Jesus we are separated from the world as God’s children and recipients of his favor.  However, as we follow Him, the Holy Spirit enables us to be separated from the ways of this world and the image of this world.

Next they are chosen by God for Obedience and for Service.  Part of Obeying God is to first believe on Jesus and then to pick up our cross and follow him.  In other words we enter into a life of dying to things that Jesus may live in us.  Just as Jesus was obedient to go to the literal cross, so God will call us to do many things that are like a cross to our soul.  We won’t want to die to certain desires and fears, but to obey God we will eventually have to learn.  We may be disciplined at times, but as a loving Father, we need not worry that he seeks to disqualify us.  On the contrary, he died that we might be his children.  Trust him!  The reason I said we are chosen for Service is because of the imagery behind the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.”  It is pointing back to the Old Testament sacrifices.  Anything that was going to be used for holy purposes, whether it was an altar, clothing, or a person like the priests, had to be sprinkled with blood from a sacrifice.  It represented that it had been cleansed and set apart for God’s work.  That physical lamb that was slain and the blood that was literally sprinkled on things point to the death of Jesus.  So, how are we metaphorically sprinkled with the blood of Jesus?  This is done by the Holy Spirit when we believe on Jesus as our substitute.  He died for me that my sins could be covered.   I believe an then God applies the blood to cover my account.

Peter’s Desire For Them

Peter ends verse 2 by praying Grace and Peace for them and that it be multiplied.  Clearly our greatest need is God’s grace, peace with Him, and peace from Him.  Though God’s grace and peace are already potentially multiplied towards us all the time, we do need to rest in that grace and peace.  If we allow our confidence to be undermined then we can lose our grip on His blessings.  Thus Peter prays that it will be in constant renewal and supply.

Peter’s Praise of God

God’s plan for mankind is truly magnificent.  It is not the plan we would have made for ourselves, but it is amazing.  Thus Peter blesses the Father because of His abundant mercy, which is a mercy that is inexhaustible.  If every soul on the planet repented today, God would have enough mercy to draw them all in and more.  However his mercy is not just abundant in quantity.  It is also abundant in quality.  Thus the next phrase, “begotten us again,” is a reference to the new birth or spiritual birth of John 3:3.  Simple mercy would be allowing us to be His slaves.  As you increase that mercy we can rise from slaves to friends.  But God’s mercy is so great that he adopts us into his family and makes us his children.  He spiritually births us into his family.  No, we do not become gods as some may claim.  But our Father is God and His Spirit does live within us, which is an abundant mercy.  We also have a “living Hope.”  It is living because Jesus who was dead is now alive.  However, it is also living in the sense that the Hope is lively.  It can’t be put down or quenched.  When satan tries to convince us that there is no hope, the hope we have in Jesus jumps up and sends him fleeing.  In Christ our hope cannot be touched by satan.  Even his death words can’t destroy the living hope we have in Jesus.  Lastly it is a living hope because it is the hope of eternal life that we have in our own personal resurrection by Jesus.  Thus the resurrection of Jesus becomes the assurance or proof that the Father will do all he has said he will do.  Our hope is a hope of life eternal.

But notice the reason God has given us spiritual birth.  In verse 4 we are born for an inheritance.  A divine inheritance has been created for those who are God’s children.  This inheritance is “incorruptible.”  That means it can’t diminish or be lost in the stock market.  It can’t grow old and die.  It is imperishable.  The next word to describe the inheritance is “undefiled.”  It is a clean and pure inheritance.  God didn’t steal it from anybody and it is not ill-gotten gain.  It is a righteous and pure inheritance that does not “fade away.”  How?  It doesn’t fade because it is kept in heaven for you.  Here things fade and luster is lost.  But our inheritance is just as shiny as the first day God made it.  Nothing, not even satan himself, can get near it to tarnish it.  In fact in verse 5 Peter says that even we ourselves are “kept by the power of God.”  This is a military picture of a spiritual guard that is placed upon us as his children.  This doesn’t mean Satan can’t attack.  It just means that his attacks are only as successful as we let them be.  That is why he couples the guarding power to our faith.  When we simply believe God in the face of every lying demon of hell then Satan can’t touch us.  Like Job of old we can lose everything and yet not, because our faith is in God.  “Though God slay me yet I will trust him.”

God has revealed the plan of his salvation.  But the day is coming when the heavens will open and Jesus will return.  And , in that day, his salvation will be revealed in all its power and glory!  This is our heavenly inheritance that we have in Jesus.  Amen.