Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pilgrim Living in a Fallen World, Part 8 - "Pilgrim's Progress" I Peter 1:22-2:3

Pilgrim Living in a Fallen World, Part 8
“Pilgrim’s Progress”
I Peter 1:22-2:3
Introduction: John MacArthur told the story of a terrible construction accident...
While on a three-story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal plummet. Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the man fell, realized he was standing exactly where the engineer would land, braced himself, and absorbed the full impact of the other man’s fall. The impact slightly injured the engineer but severely hurt the laborer. The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body, and after he recovered from those injuries, he was severely disabled. Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the engineer had treated him since the accident. The handicapped man told the reporter: “He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business. He is constantly concerned about my needs and never lets me want for anything. Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.”
       The laborer put himself at risk to try and help the engineer. The man who was saved spent the rest of his life giving thanks. Memorial day is a day that we have designated to express thankfulness for those who paid the ultimate price by giving their lives to preserve our freedoms. We should be humbled and moved by their willingness to serve, and when it became necessary, to sacrifice. It also serves as an illustration of the Gospel: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus did that for us, and Peter has been talking about that truth in this context.  In the previous verses Peter urged his readers, in response to their being ransomed at such great cost, the precious blood of the Son, “To conduct yourselves with fear during the time of your exile...” (1:17). He now points to a couple of practical areas where we can apply that exhortation, growing in our faith by abiding in God’s Word, and demonstrating our faith by loving one another.  
The Maine* Idea: We have new life through the Gospel that was preached to us, and through the Word can keep growing into what God wants us to be.
I. A NEW LIFE: If you have truly believed in Jesus you have been born again through His Word into God’s forever family (1:22-25).
1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,  23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  24 for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,  25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
     Remember that this passage flows in the context of Peter’s letter from the previous verses. He had been talking about our great salvation, planned from before the foundation of the world and carried out in time and space through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Through Him we are “believers in God” (1:21).  In the light of the context it seems pretty certain that Peter is talking about salvation when he refers in v.22 to “the cleansing of your souls.” Through out Scripture “cleansing” or “purifying” has had to do with the question of our sin. For example Moses wrote,
And the Levites purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes, and Aaron offered them as a wave offering before the LORD, and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them... (Numbers 8:21).
The ritual cleansing of the priests so that they could minister before the Lord was necessary because they too were sinners. Sin has been a problem for humans since the fall. It separated sinful humans from a holy God. Yet God in His grace made a way for us to be reconciled. Isaiah spoke of it when he said,
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool...” (Isa 1:18).
If I am right that Peter is speaking about being purified from sin, that is, being saved, then the means he describes sounds surprising: “Having purified your souls through your obedience to the Truth...” You might think, “Wait a minute pastor, I thought salvation was by grace through faith, and not of works or human effort.” As we read through this passage the “obedience” that he is referring to is hearing and believing the Gospel.  We’ve seen the ideas closely connected before. For example in John 3:36 we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” “Believing” is contrasted with “not obeying.”  The ideas are that closely connected. To believe Him implies trusting in His finished work, and also believing that He is who He claimed to be, God Incarnate, the Eternal Word made flesh, the Son of the Most High. We can’t be saved by a mere human or even by a powerful creature, only by God. If we acknowledge He is Lord, that means He must be in charge, we owe Him our allegiance. It is similar to what Jesus meant when He said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me...” “Hearing with faith” implies more than letting sound waves bounce off our ear drums. We follow Him. We take Him at His word and respond to His call.
        By the way, Paul also connect “obedience” and “faith” at the beginning and end of Romans, the great exposition of the gospel of salvation and its implications for Christian living.  In the greeting of that letter, speaking of the ministry that he had been given he said, “...we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations...” (1:5).  It seems here that he is saying “the obedience that is faith.” In other words, his ministry was to lead others to faith in Jesus. At the end of the letter, in the final benediction he says in 16:26 that the preaching of the gospel was to...bring about the obedience of faith...” to the glory of God.
       So that was a bit of an excursus, coming back to I Peter 1:22 the apostle speaks of “obedience to the truth.” What truth? The context goes on to speak of “the living and abiding word of God” (v.23) and “the word of the Lord” (v.25a).  He then expounds on his meaning, “...this word is the good news that was preached to you...” (v.25b). So “obeying the truth” is believing and responding to the Gospel, planned from the foundation of the world, fulfilled by the Son, preached by the apostles.
      Still in v.22 Peter isn’t finished yet, in fact He is getting to the point of the verse. We were saved “unto” something: “...for a sincere brotherly love...” The word here is filadelfia, “brotherly love.” This word appears only six times in the New Testament, half of those in Peter’s two short letters. The first here, and twice more in the opening of 2 Peter.  We read in 2 Peter 1:3-8,
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
     In the second Peter passage Peter ties “brotherly affection,” i.e. filadelfia, together with “love,” i.e. agape. Paul also brings the ideas together in I Thessalonians 4:9, “Now concerning brotherly love [filadelfia] you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love [agapao] one another...  (cf. Rom 12:10). In our passage Peter says his readers were saved “unto, or “for,” sincere, unhypocritical, unfeigned, authentic, “brotherly love.” Peter is assuming and alluding to the idea that love for our brothers and sisters in the church is part of God’s design, his plan.  It’s part of God’s design for the church as evidenced by the repetition of the idea in the New Testament (at least 13 times!):
John 13:34,35  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Romans 12:10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
1 Thessalonians 4:9Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another...”
I John 3:11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
I John 3:23  “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”
1 John 4:7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
 I John 4:11,12Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
2 John 1:5And now I ask you, dear lady- not as though I were writing you a new command-ment, but the one we have had from the beginning- that we love one another.”
Do you find it striking that Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all admonished us to “love one another”?  Finally in our passage we read in 1 Peter 1:22,
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart...” 
If we were saved “unto” or “for” a sincere brotherly love, why is it necessary to tell us to do it? Love requires thinking of another before yourself, putting their good and their happiness before your own.  That conflicts with our fallen nature which is inherently selfish and self-centered. We know we should love one another, in our better moments we want to love one another, but too often we do so only when it doesn’t get in the way of what we want.  So we need to be reminded to choose love. “The love that binds the redeemed flows from the love of the Redeemer” (Clowney, The Message of I Peter). Jesus is our example.  After all, we have been “born again,” not through natural means, but “through the living and abiding word.” All Scripture points to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the message of the Bible centers on the Gospel.  And so we have new life through the Gospel that was preached to us, and through the Word can keep growing into what God wants us to be.

II. A NEW WAY OF LIFE: Since we have a new life let us live like it and grow into what God wants us to be (2:1-3).
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation-  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
      The imperative “put off” or “put away” literally means to “take off and lay aside” as in taking off a garment. It is used in that sense to describe the stoners of Stephen removing their robes and laying them at the feet of Saul so that they could be unhindered in throwing their stones at him (Acts 7:58). The writer to the Hebrews uses it in Hebrews 12:1 when he compares the Christian life to a runner laying aside the things that so easily entangle and hinder. The few times it appears in the New Testament are often in contexts that have to do with turning away from our old way of life, and turning fully toward the Lord. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians,
In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator...” (Col 3:7-10, ESV).
      The practices that are to be “laid aside” are listed by Peter here in the opening of I Peter 2. They focus on our speech and/or our attitude toward our brother. Remember this follows the call to “love one another.”  Love edifies, seeks to build up. It encourages. The old self-centered “self” is focused too much on “me” to be interested in helping someone else. Notice what we are to put off: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander.
       “Malice” is the word kakia, it might be better translated “wickedness” or “evil behavior.” It is the opposite of “goodness.” It’s the word the translators of the Septuagint used to describe the “wickedness of man on the earth” in Genesis 6:5 before the flood. It describes complete moral depravity. It is the evil to which the unregenerate heart is in bondage. The word is also used in the LXX to describe the “evil” of the city of Nineveh that led the Lord to send Jonah there to proclaim its impending destruction. Peter is talking in the context about love, desiring the best for one another, this is the general term that shows the opposite, not good, but evil intentions. Listen, by Peter saying to “put off” malice, wicked, evil intentions, is an indication that our hearts can still go there. We need to be intentional about it. We need to choose to love, we choose to desire God’s best for each other.  If “malice” is the general term, the next four describe aspects of it: deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander.  We choose honesty and truth, we desire the best and celebrate their victories, we strive to be honest, transparent and sincere, speaking good, not evil.
       The apostle switches metaphors in verse 2. Rather than telling us to “put something on” as we might expect, he paints a different picture of a baby craving it’s mother’s milk,  “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk...” Infants get all of their nutrition from their mother. Even mother’s immunities protect the newborn during infancy.  Babies grow because they are fed, they are nourished. Lately I’ve seen a few “memory” shares on Facebook, seeing pictures of some of our church kids, 2, 3, 4, or 5 years ago. My they grow quickly! They are changing, getting more like the adults they will become.
       Peter says that we should put off our old ways, and crave the Word, and be nourished by it, that we might grow into the disciple the Lord wants us to be, “...that by it you may grow up to salvation-  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” The psalmist said in Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” God is good and He does good.  You understand that if you know Him. Do you want to be more like Father? Then put off evil, long for the Word, choose love. Galatians 5:19-23 touches on some of these same terms in contrasting the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. That is God working in us, changing us. But we are also to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We are responsible for our choices.
What is God saying to me in this passage?  We have new life through the Gospel that was preached to us, and through the Word can keep growing into what God wants us to be: a shining light for Him as we live as pilgrims in a fallen world.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? We should cherish the memory of those who sacrificed so that we could be free. As believers in Jesus, we should cherish the memory of the one who laid down His life so that we could be free from sin and its penalty. He loved us that much. We should love one another. Whenever we see a command given in Scripture, it is a good idea to ask how it applies to me personally. When it is repeated 13 times, we had better pay attention! May there be no grudges or evil intentions between us. May we speak well of each other and love each other from the heart. As far as it rests with you, be at peace with all men. When appropriate, confess, seek forgiveness. Be ready to forgive. Be willing to speak the truth in love.  By this men will know that we are His disciples, if we have love for one another.  Our testimony, His testimony is at stake.  May it never be that our conduct would give the people around us, those who know us best, an excuse not to believe. To God be the glory!     AMEN.                

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pilgrim Living in a Fallen World, Part 7: The Father's Love I Peter 1:17-21

The Father’s Love
I Peter 1:17-21
Introduction: As we consider the twisting of morality and the rejection of truth that seemingly is prevailing in our country, may we be reminded that we are only pilgrims, that God is in control, and that we fear God, not men. Our series in I Peter is called “Pilgrim Living in a Fallen World.” We trust God, and for now, He has us in the world to carry out His mission, but this really isn’t home. We were created for eternity.  So rejoice in the Lord always! Our last look at I Peter, 1:13-16, was a call to live a life worthy of our calling. We are to be obedient children who exercise self-control, who are in the world, but not of the world, who are “set apart” by God and for God. Today we see that...
…Unless God had made us his, we could not gain his holiness or want it. But God has claimed us as his own, claimed us at a cost that sears our minds with the flame of his love. Peter appeals to the two most profound emotions our hearts can know.  One is love, love that sees the price God paid to redeem us. The other is fear, the fear of despising God’s love. What judgment would we merit if we were to trample upon the blood of Christ, and treat God’s precious ransom with contempt, the contempt that mere gold and silver would deserve in comparison? (E.P. Clowney, The Message of I Peter).
So love is at the heart of it. As Peter continues the opening of this letter he points to the relationship that should motivate our living: we are God’s children, we are in a relationship with the Father, He is just, and He loves us more than we can imagine. Love is at the heart of the Christian life. This week we are reminded of the love that planned and provided our salvation. Next week we’ll see that God’s love should motivate us to love one another (1:22-2:3)!
The Maine* Idea: We have a deep reverence for our Father, knowing the cost of our salvation. We’ll look at that from three perspectives,
1)    Respond to the Father’s Justice: As pilgrims in a fallen world we live with a deep reverence for our just Father.
2)    We are called to Remember the Father’s Love: As pilgrims in a fallen world we are motivated by the knowledge that our redemption, our salvation, came at a great cost: the blood of Christ (18,19). And finally...
3)    Rejoice in the Father’s Plan: As pilgrims in a fallen world we rejoice in God’s salvation plan devised in eternity past and realized in Christ in the fullness of time through His death and resurrection (20,21).
Let’s start with 1:17…
I. Respond to the Father’s Justice: As Pilgrims in a fallen world we live with a deep reverence for our just Father (17).
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…
       Literally the term has the idea, “fear,” but whenever the Bible applies it to God, and to the attitude of believers, it has the sense of “deep respect, reverence.”  As pilgrims in a fallen world, reverence for our Father motivates holiness – I read somewhere this week to the story of a child who was being tempted by some friends to do something he knew his father wouldn’t approve of.  When he refused, they said, “You are just afraid that your father will hurt you if he finds out!”  He replied, “I am not afraid my father will hurt me if I do it, I am afraid that I will hurt my father!” He didn’t want to grieve his father, to bring pain to him by his disobedience. In the same way, “We are not afraid that God will hurt us if we sin, we are afraid that we will hurt Him…” The Apostle Paul was talking to the Ephesians about their conduct in the light of what God has done for us in Christ. He said in Ephesians 4:29-32,   
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Paul is saying that the actions he describes would grieve the Holy Spirit.  We are His, we were bought with a price. “God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). If we grasp the love that it took to send the Son, we want to love Him in return. He tells us, repeatedly, that we show that love by loving one another.
       Yet we can’t ignore that in our context in I Peter, God’s character is a motivation to “conduct yourselves with fear during the time of your exile…” God is just, so call on Him with fear, that is, with a deep reverence (see Phil 2:12-16a). Did you know we are all called to “work out”? We are called to work out the implications of our salvation...
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  16 holding fast to the word of life… (Philippians 2:12-16a).
Listen to what Paul is saying there…
        “Therefore” = “So then…”  In light of what has come before in that letter to the Philippians: In view of the fact that God has given us abundant reason to trust him, in light of the example of Jesus in humbling himself and obediently carrying out the Fathers plan, and in view of his exaltation to the throne at the Father’s right hand, we are called to “Work out our salvation with fear and trembling…”
        You might think, “Wait a minute, I thought salvation was by grace, God’s unmerited favor, what’s this about work?” Paul is not saying that we should work for our salvation.  The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do to earn eternal life.  We can’t work our way into heaven.  Eternal life is a free gift from God (Rom 6:23; Eph 2:8,9).  We are to “work out our salvation” in the sense that we are to live out the implications of being a saved person, God’s child, forgiven, not perfect, but changed, carrying out our part in Christ’s mission in the world. We see the interplay between God working in us, and our responsibility to live our lives in obedience to Him. So, how’s your “workout” going?” We are saved “unto” obedience.  Remember I Peter 1:2 says, “…who are chosen  2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…”  Paul writes in Eph 2:10 that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God ordained beforehand that we should walk in them…” A changed, transformed life is characteristic of biblical Christianity.  James 2:17 says that “…faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself…”  A changed life, conduct that is characterized by a growing obedience to Jesus is normal, healthy Christianity.
       “Fear and trembling” are almost always used together in contexts that speak of God’s sovereignty, and of his holiness and power.  It of course does not simply mean that we are to be “afraid” of God.  Rather, we are not to live out our Christian life arrogantly or presumptuously, but rather with a “humble reverence.”  Why? V. 13 goes on to give the reason…
 “… for [this is the reason you should do it] it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure…” 
How great is our God!  We need to live our lives in humble, reverent recognition of the sovereign hand of God.  Paul admonished the Corinthians to live differently when he said “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  The presence of the holy all powerful creator of the universe should cause us to tremble!   Here he goes even further; God is not only with us and in us, he is purposefully working in us, “…both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The miracle is that as God is working in us, he will also work through us!  As his plan is unfolding on the stage of human history he has chosen to include us in his story!
       OK. Come back to I Peter 1:17, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile… Verses 13-16 talked about being “obedient children” and following the Father’s example of holiness, “Be holy because I am holy.” If we are calling GOD our father, the holy One, the impartial and just Judge of the universe, we don’t approach Him presumptuously or flippantly or demanding our way.  He is God. We are his creatures, and by grace, His children. So we come with the proper respect, realizing we are exiles and pilgrims in this fallen world.  Because the effects of sin still surround us and still linger within us, at times our Father needs to get our attention.
       Our Father will discipline His children. We read in Hebrews 12:3-11...
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it...
We revere Him, remembering we are exiles…  Our citizenship is in heaven, our hope is in a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. So recognizing that this life is not the end of the story we live differently. We don’t get so attached to “things” knowing that we can’t take any of it with us. Hopefully, we choose to live as children of the King.  We have a deep reverence for our Father, knowing the cost of our salvation.
II. Remember the Father’s Love: As pilgrims in a fallen world we are motivated by the knowledge that our redemption, our salvation, came at a great cost: the blood of Christ. We read in I Peter 1:18,19,
“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,  19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot…”
The word “ransom” implies the payment of a price to secure the freedom of another. We were slaves to sin and to Satan, powerless to save ourselves. Being good, being religious, doing good works, none of our effort could save us. The price was too high, we couldn’t pay it. But “God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” (Rom 5:8). Rick Warren recently wrote in a devotional…
There’s an amazing paradox to God’s grace. It’s absolutely free to all who come to Jesus in faith. Yet the grace of God is the costliest gift we’ll ever receive.  It cost God’s Son his life. So in light of what Jesus has done for us, how should we respond? We must be grateful. One way we can show our gratitude to God is by making our lives count. 
You can’t really understand the grace of God and the price he paid to make it available to you while living how you want to live, ignoring the commands of Jesus or wasting your life on things that don’t matter. The Bible says it this way: “Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? .... So let people see God in and through your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 MSG).
After the failed assassination attempt against him, I remember President Ronald Regan saying, “I have a new sense that I was spared for a purpose and that all my time belonged to God after that.”
We all should have the same sense of purpose. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we were spared for a reason: to make a difference with our lives. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could go on living any way we like. He made us for a purpose — and he redeemed us for a purpose, too. He wants us to fulfill that purpose.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV). You were given spiritual gifts, abilities, education, and relationships for a reason — to help other people and tell them about Jesus.  God saved you so he can use you.
Or as our brother Herb Mullin has said, “God saved you on purpose, for a purpose.” Think about that. God knows you and loves you and chose you from the foundation of the earth, to be in His family, and to have a part is his program and to share in his mission.  You were ransomed at a great cost. Not silver or gold. The blood of Christ. A sacrifice, a substitute was required.  He did that for you. So, we should have a deep reverence for our Father, knowing the cost of our salvation.
III. Rejoice in the Father’s Plan: As pilgrims in a fallen world we rejoice in God’s salvation plan devised in eternity past and realized in Christ in the fullness of time through His death and resurrection (20,21).
“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,  21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (I Peter 1:20,21).
       God’s rescue plan goes back to before the foundation of the world (20a).  First Peter says, “He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world…” The idea of “foreknowing” is a challenging one for our minds. The English word “prescience” has the sense of “knowing something beforehand.”  However when God is the subject, when He is the “knower,” there is more to it. Remember back in I Peter 1:2 we read about “the foreknowledge of God the Father...” What does that mean? God is omniscient after all, but is that the full significance of the term? The recipients of the letter are “elect... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father...  That is referring to the truth that God knew us and loved us from before the foundation of the world. That is evident when we look at a few other passages that use the same root word…
Acts 2:23 “...this Jesus, delivered up according to [or, “by means of”] the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
God’s plan and His foreknowledge are both causal here, the means by which Jesus is delivered up. He is deliver by means of God’s predetermined plan AND foreknowledge. To really get at the sense of the meaning of the word, it is helpful to think about the simple form of the noun gnosis when it refers to the knowledge of God. It seems the ideas “to know,” “to choose,” and “to love” are closely connected. 
Romans 8:29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
This is clearly more than simple objective knowledge about a person. It is knowing in a more intimate and immediate sense.  
Romans 11:2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew...”
What does it mean that God “foreknew” the Jews?  We get a sense of the meaning in Deuteronomy 7:6-8,
6 "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Likewise the word is used here, in our passage, to describe the Father’s “foreknowledge” of the Son...
1 Peter 1:20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake...”
It was not that the Father was doubting or monitoring if the Son would stand the test, or even knowing beforehand that He would do so.  The point is that the Father knew and loved the Son from eternity.  And as we saw in the opening of the letter, He knew and loved you, if you are a believer in Christ (1:2). 
      Our faith in Christ and our hope in the salvation He has provided are rooted in his resurrection and glorification (20b-21).  God’s plan unfolded in history exactly as it was planned in the Godhead in eternity past. The writer to the Hebrews opens his epistle saying, “In different times and in different ways God spoke in times past to the fathers through the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken in the Son…” (Heb 1:1,2). That revelation in history gives us a sure hope in our time of exile.
What is God saying to me in this passage? We have a deep reverence for our Father, knowing the cost of our salvation.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? This is who you are, and who’s you are. This is your position. How then, should you live? We say our church purpose is “to know God and to make Him known.” It that your purpose?  The New Testament model is that every one of us is a “minister.” We are all God’s “undercover missionaries” in the place where He has put us. Start in your 8/15, the 8 to 15 people around you! Write down their names, pray for them daily, ask God to give you opportunity to share your faith with them.    


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pilgrim Perspectives I Peter 1:13-16

Pilgrim Perspectives (or, “Saving Pilgrim _________”)
I Peter 1:13-16
Introduction:  One of the themes of the current election cycle has been the question of immigration, foreigners, and exiles. Without entering into the political issue, it’s not too surprising that the theme is prevalent at several levels in the Bible.  After all, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were exiled from the Garden they were created for and sent out into this sin cursed world. Abraham was called to leave his native land and headed to a land that he did not know.  There he became a “resident alien” and had to purchase a burial place for his wife.  The sons of Jacob were refugees in Egypt during a time of famine, and eventually their descendants were enslaved. They were foreigners, mistrusted and maligned.
       The Nation was delivered from bondage and entered into the promised land, a place they were given by God, but only over time did they gain security from the pagan inhabitants. Initially, they were strangers in their own land.  Due to their unfaithfulness God allowed the ten northern tribes to be defeated and deported by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and the southern Kingdom likewise fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. For a time they lived as exiles, until, under Ezra, and Zerrubabel, and Nehemiah, a remnant returned to the land and the city was restored as the walls and the Temple were rebuilt. It’s not only an Old Testament concept.
        In the New Testament, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid the treachery of Herod, and later the believers were scattered in Acts after the death of Stephen. Peter is using the language of “pilgrims and exiles” to address his audience, who were perhaps among those that had been “dispersed” through persecution, but who also knew that their citizenship, ultimately, was in heaven. So they were foreigners, looking forward to something better that God had planned and prepared for them.   
       Peter uses a couple of different words in this first chapter of I Peter to convey different aspects of the idea. We are “foreigners” or “strangers” who live in a land that is not our own. In that sense we are like the Jews of the exile, away from the land of promise, but with an eye that looks homeward. The word “pilgrim” is also used to describe the Jews of the dispersion who would travel back to Jerusalem for worship in the Temple at the time of the “Pilgrim Feasts.” As pilgrims in a fallen world we are not perfect, but we are different, we are not sinless, but we do sin less...  

The Maine Idea: As exiles in a fallen world we have hope in the future and the heart to live a separated life in the present.
In the interest of alliteration we’ll look at that Maine idea from three perspectives,
First, I. Our conscience (13): By that I mean the things that guide our thinking, we’ll see pilgrims look to the future with hope.
Secondly, II. Our conduct (14): As pilgrims we live by a new standard because we answer to a higher authority.
And finally, the third “C,” III. Our consecration (15,16), we know we are made for eternity, that this life is not all there is, so we are “in” the world, but we are not “of” the world.
I. Our conscience: Pilgrims look to the future with hope (13).
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 
       “Therefore...” Remember when we see a “therefore” we need to ask what it is “there for”!  Peter is drawing an application based on the first part of chapter one. He has set forth the reality of “Our Great Salvation,” that fact that God knew us and chose us and loved us from before the foundation of the world, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  In the light of God’s love, in view of His saving grace, this is what you need to do.  This is the biblical model that we see repeated throughout the New Testament, the imperatives, the commands that are given, the calls to action, are always based on the indicatives, the statements of who we are and what we have in Christ.  A couple of examples...

Romans 12:1  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Ephesians 4:1  “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called...”

Colossians 3:1  “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God...”
In each case the apostle has been talking about our standing, our position, our salvation in Christ, and then he draws the application, “In the light of this salvation, this is how you should respond!”  The idea is similar to what Paul told the Philippians when he said, “...Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure...” (2:12b-13). 
       If you saw the film “Saving Private Ryan,” there are a couple of scenes that you probably won’t forget. Three of his brothers had been killed in the war, and a team of men were sent in to find private Ryan and to bring him home to his mother.  Almost all of Captain Miller’s men were killed over the course of the movie as they found, and eventually rescued Private Ryan. At one point, one of the rescuers said, “He better be worth it!”  Finally, there was a scene on a bridge, Captain Miller was slumped over, dying, he said to Ryan, “Earn this.” At the end of the movie, Ryan is now old, and is standing by Captain Miller’s grave. He says, “Every day of my life I remember what you told me on that bridge. I’ve done my best to live a good life...”  Every day we should remember the One who saved us, the sacrifice that was made. He said, “It is finished!” We could never earn it. But as we remember  what he did, the price that was paid, we can live as one forgiven, one who has been freed from sin. I can choose to “walk worthy of the calling with which I have been called.”
      “Gird your loins...” i.e., Prepare your minds for action... The picture here is paraphrased for us in modern translation since with literal rendering of the old King James version might not make immediate sense: “Gird up the loins of your mind...” In Peter’s context that would have been immediately clear to his readers. Men wore long, flowing robes, and whether it was getting down to work or getting ready for a battle, they knew that long robe needed to wrapped around and tucked into the belt or sash so it didn’t inhibit movement or get in the way. So the ESV get at the meaning: “...therefore, preparing your minds for action...” John MacArthur said, Peter...
...urges believers to pull in all the loose ends of their lives, meaning to discipline their thoughts (cf. Rom 12:2), live according to biblical priorities (cf. Matt 6:33), disentangle themselves from the world’s sinful hindrances (cf. 2 Timothy 2:3-5; Heb 12:1), and conduct life righteously and godly in view of the future grace that accompanies Christ’s return...
       Being sober minded... Part of right thinking is to not be led astray or deceived by the enticements of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Remember Paul contrasted being “drunk with wine” with being “filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit in us convicts and guides our thinking. Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will be no means fulfill the lusts of the flesh!
       “...Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you...”  “Hope” is future looking, a confidence that God will bring his plan to pass. As we have seen through the opening of the letter God’s sovereign hand in planning, providing, and culminating our salvation is a cause for rejoicing. It is all by grace, God’s unmerited favor, which will be expressed again at “...the revelation of Jesus Christ...”   As exiles in a fallen world we have hope in the future and the heart to live a separated life in the present.

II. Our conduct: Pilgrims live by a new standard (14).
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,
       As obedient children...  We are the King’s Kids... Literally the phrase here is “As children of obedience...”  We asked some of our church kids, “What does it mean to be a child of obedience”?  Here are a few of the answers!
Two of Terri’s said, "To obey your parents."
Marion Pray’s idea of being obedient (I think with some translation from mom!) it “To not dump milk all over the place, and to not hit the dog!”
JJ: “to be good, to behave, to listen to mom and dad.”
Katy: “Listen to mom and dad, even obey them!”
Maggie’s boys:
    Lucas says, "To listen the first time someone says something"
   Owen says, "Listening to directions!"
The Fowlie boys, (I love the progression in the answers here!)
    Kameron.... [remember the question!] "You get a spanking!"
   Avery: "You have to obey and do what your parents say to do... you have to do whatever they say EVERY single time..."
    Andrew: "...means that you don't want to disobey your parents but we
are all sinful, so if you are obedient you would be perfect like God  but since we all have sin, we try our best to do what our parents ask of us."  (You can tell his father is a theology student!)
The kids are right, we should obey all the time, we want to obey, but we still fall short. We are not perfectly obedient children. But we love our Father, and we want to please Him. So we “listen.” And hopefully, we are learning and growing.
       Do not be conformed...  This verb appears only twice in the New Testament. In both cases it is a negative admonition: Do not be conformed...  In Romans 12:2 Paul urges his readers not to be “conformed to the world.”  J.B. Philips translated, “Don’t let the world force you into its mold!”  Here the admonition in the New Living Translation says,
“Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then.”
That is important to remember, there is tremendous pressure to fit it, to be like everyone else.   The point is, we are children of the king, and if we remember that, maybe we’ll act like it more consistently.  As exiles in a fallen world we have hope in the future and the heart to live a separated life in the present.

III. Our consecration: Pilgrims are in the world but not of the world (15,16).
15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
       The admonition here is more than most of us would dare think we are capable of: As He is holy, YOU be holy?! What do you do with that?  I decided to go again to the experts and get the thoughts of a few church kids.  Our impromptu survey question was, “What does it mean to be holy?” Here are a few of the answers...
JJ said, “To pray, ask Jesus for forgiveness.”  Katy said, “Listen to Jesus and listen to what He says!”
Kameron says, “I am not holy. Daddy is not holy. Mommy is not holy. Only God is holy. NOT Holy Cow. And that is all I know.”
Avery: “Only God is holy. People are not holy. Jesus can do things that people can’t do. He can do miracles!”
Andrew: “To be perfect, to be almighty.”   
Some pretty good answers!  The word “holy” means “set apart.” We know that for those who are in Christ, there are two aspects to this concept: positional holiness, and practical holiness.  Positionally, if we are believers, we are holy.  If you have any doubt about that, think back to Paul’s opening to his letter to the Corinthians. I that letter he deals with multiple issues in the Corinthian church: sexual immorality, divisions in the church, lawsuits between believers, offenses between brothers, etc. But do you remember how he addresses them in the opening of the letter? 
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...”  (I Corinthians 1:2).
The word translated “saint” is the word hagios, “holy one,” the same word that is used as an adjective in I Peter 1:15,16.  The word “sanctified,” hagiazo, is related, the idea being “to be set apart.” My point is that the Corinthians were “set apart” positionally, but they, and we, don’t measure up when it comes to “practical holiness.”  They Corinthians were living just like the world. Their “holiness” was not something that was evident in their lives. We all fall short too, but hopefully, we are becoming more and more “set apart” in our speech, in our thoughts, and in our conduct. More like Jesus today than when we first believed.
      We have biblical examples of humans getting a glimpse of the holiness of God and being overwhelmed by their own personal sinfulness. Isaiah’s vision is one that comes to mind (Isa 6). A vision of the Seraphim circling the throne of God, covering their facts and their feet, crying out “Holy, holy. Holy is the Lord God almighty!” Isaiah’s response, “Woe unto me, I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips...”  He saw his own sinfulness in the light of God’s holiness.  Peter’s encounter came at several points no doubt, not the least of which was in his fishing boat.  We read in Luke 5:4-9,
4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  5 And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."  6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."  9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken...
He knew he was in the presence of holiness! The holiness of God is an awesome subject.  He is holy-perfect-sinless. We are His! In Christ we are holy. Practically, our desire, our aim, is to be holy, because it pleases and honors our father.
What is God saying to me in this passage? As pilgrims in a fallen world we are not perfect, but we are different, we are not sinless, but we do sin less...  We have hope in the future and the heart to live a separated life in the present.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?  In a sermon by Ray Pritchard there is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I haven’t yet been able to track down (Ray didn’t give a reference). Lewis said,
How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing... it is irresistible.  If even ten percent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”  

I think he might overstate that, probably intentionally, but the point is that it will make a difference to the people around us if they see something real in our faith. They will take notice if our faith impacts us where we live. He is saying that if people see that there is something real in our Christianity, something that is visible, something supernatural that has changed us, and is changing us, from the inside out, they would take notice.  Let me say, there is a flip side to that.  If we speak negatively about another believer, or about the church, we are playing into the enemy’s hands. We are giving people outside and excuse not to believe. Take that seriously.  God forbid that we should cause anyone to stumble! We are holy because, if we have believed, we are in Christ. We are “set apart” just as surely as the Corinthians were. He bore our sins, his righteousness was reckoned to our account.  The admonition to consider: will we choose to allow the light of God’s grace to shine through in our living? Do you know that God takes pleasure in his  children? We read, for example, in Psalm 149:4,  

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” 

It is that salvation that we celebrate, and that motivates us to live differently. Let’s consider the price that was paid for us to call Him Father.  Every day, remember what He said that day on the cross... It is finished. We could never earn it. But we choose to love and to honor the One who so loved us.   AMEN.

Our Great Salvation I Peter 1:10-12

[This message was preached on April 24, 2016 at Boothbay Baptist Church and continues the series "Pilgrim Living in a Fallen World" on I Peter.]
Our Great Salvation
I Peter 1:10-12
Introduction:  It wasn’t that long ago, you probably remember the news reports. A cave in at the San Jose’ copper mine in northern Chile on August 5, 2010 trapped 33 miners a half mile underground. For two weeks it was feared they were dead. But they had made it to an emergency “refuge” room, a reinforced safety area supplied with some survival necessities, food and water. It would take over two months for them to be rescued... Three different plans were initially worked side by side to save the men.  Finally, after over two months, a narrow shaft was drilled down to them, and one by one they were brought up in a small rescue capsule.  Each emerged to the television cameras and cheers of the crowds. That was one of the greatest mine rescues in history. However the greatest rescue plan ever was carried out long before, nearly 2000 years earlier, on a hill just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  In that case there was only one plan, only one way, and it would make possible rescue of not only thirty, but of millions, and probably billions, through the ages. It was a plan devised in the council of the Trinity in eternity past, carried out in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and applied to the hearts of humans by grace through faith through the ages. Our theme today is “Our Great Salvation.” In God’s timing, this afternoon we’ll celebrate the memory of Lorraine E., a dear sister who went to be with the Lord at age of 94. She was ready to go to heaven. We also have two ladies today taking the step of publically proclaiming their faith in baptism...
The Maine Idea: God has planned and carried out an unimaginable rescue mission, doing for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves, sending the Son to die as our substitute, paying for our sins.
I. Salvation Applied: it could only be by grace through faith.   God’s rescue plan was woven into the revelation given to the Old Testament prophets.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating...
       The prophets were God’s spokesmen to his people throughout the Old Testament. They were primarily called to call the people to walk in obedience to God and to remind them that unfaithfulness would bring God’s chastening upon them. Along with this “forth-telling” of the Word of God, the prophets also brought some revelation about the future.  Jeremiah, for example, spoke of imminent disaster and exile, but he also looked ahead and gave hope that a remnant would return to the land. Israel would be unfaithful and incur God’s chastening.  But God is faithful, He keeps His promises, and in the fullness of time He would send the promised One who would be a deliverer, a Savior.
       But how would this great salvation be applied? Not everyone is going to heaven! In fact Jesus made it clear that it is a small minority of humanity. He said, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are going that way. Narrow is the way that leads to life and few there are that find it.”  Remember the tower of Babel? The people thought they could build a tower to heaven, that they could come to God on their own terms, by their own effort. That is what most people imagine today. Notice that the prophets prophesied about the “grace” that would be yours. Paul spoke of it in his letters as well, for example in Ephesians 2:8,9...
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not as a result of works, that no man may boast...”
Grace” is contrasted with “works.” Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve. We don’t make ourselves good enough and then come to Christ. We can’t be good enough. So we turn to Him, acknowledging our weakness, confessing our sin. Trusting in Him. And like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God is waiting, watching, and He runs out to meet us.  That is grace! God has planned and carried out an unimaginable rescue mission, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves, sending the Son to die as our substitute, paying for our sins.
II. Salvation Accomplished: it required a Righteous Substitute, One who could enter history and do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories...
       The prophets spoke of a suffering servant. We read of a Righteous Sufferer in the psalms, of sacrifices in the Law, even of substitutes. In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to take the son of his old age, Isaac, the son of promise, the heir, to Mount Moriah, and to offer him as a burnt offering. It was a test for Abraham to be sure, and even as he raised his hand, ready to plunge the knife into his son, God intervened. And when they turned there was a ram caught in the thicket. God had provided the sacrifice for the burnt offering. 2000 years later another Son would carry the wood on which he would be sacrificed up a hill outside Jerusalem, but this time it was shaped like a cross, and there would be no intervention. The Son was also the Lamb. We see the parallels more clearly than Moses possibly could have as he wrote down the stories of the patriarchs. The “thread of redemption” was there, and the prophets searched diligently to understand the full import of their own words. Perhaps nowhere does the picture of a figure who would save us from our sins become more explicit that it did with the suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12...
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  14 As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind-  15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. 53:1Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
It’s a long quotation, but such a beautiful “pre”-telling of the work of the Son, innocent yet rejected, sinless, yet bearing the sins of many.  Isaiah wrote this 700 years before Jesus was born!  But God in his grace made it known to the prophet, so that he could write it down and over the centuries the people could wait for the coming of this Servant, and puzzle over how it could be that He would bear the sins of many.  It was an unimaginable, audacious, plan.  It revealed indescribable love. Yet before the universe was created, God had it all laid out. He had designed it all. For us. God has planned and carried out an unimaginable rescue mission, doing for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves, sending the Son to die as our substitute, paying for our sins.
III. Salvation Announced (in the fullness of time):  The prophets looked ahead to the Coming One – “How long O Lord?” The apostles proclaimed, “The Messiah, the Deliverer for whom we have been so long waiting, has come. He is Jesus.” Read verse 12,
12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
       The church preaches the Good News of our Rescuer. Peter could tell his readers that this salvation, this “rescue plan” which was preached to them, the message of the New Testament apostles and prophets, is the “Gospel” of Christ.  It is the message that saves us, and the message that has been entrusted to us. If we have believed that message and received Him, God can no longer be pushed off into a corner of our life. The believer should live a Gospel Centered life.
       Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the old preacher was visiting a church one Sunday evening, and the pastor of the church told the congregation that the old man was a dear childhood friend. He asked the older visitor if he would like to share a greeting, or whatever was on his heart, with the congregation.  The elderly minister stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak.
A father, his son and a friend of the son were sailing off the pacific coast. Suddenly a fast approaching storm over took them and blocked any way of them getting to shore. The storm worsened and the waves were so high that even though the father was an experienced sailor he could not keep the boat upright and it capsized.
The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service started, looking somewhat interested in his story. The aged minister continued his story...
Both boys had been thrown away from the boat. Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy would he throw the other end of the lifeline? He had only seconds to make the decision. The father knew that his son was a Christian and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of the decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves. As the father yelled out, “I love you son!” he threw the line to his son’s friend. By the time he had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the blackness. His body was never recovered.
By this time the two teenagers were leaning forward in their seats, hanging on every word as the old man spoke.  He continued,
 The Father knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus and he could not bear the thought of the son’s friend stepping into eternity without Jesus. Therefore he sacrificed his son to save his son’s friend.
With that the old man sat down in his chair and the room grew silent.  The pastor walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief message.  Within minutes of the service ending the two teens walked up to the old man. Politely one of them said,
     “That was a nice story, but I don’t think it was realistic for a father to give up his son’s life in hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.
     “Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied as he glanced down at his worn Bible. “It sure isn’t realistic, is it? But I am standing today to tell you that the story gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up His only Son for me. You see... I was the father, and your pastor was my son’s friend.”
       His life was a living gospel illustration. But if you know Jesus, so is yours. You’ve been rescued by the Father, who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. That is a rescue plan that we would not have imagined, but it was in the mind of God from before the creation of the world.
       Even angels “long to look...” The word here translated “look” is used of describing the first witnesses of the resurrection stooping down and looking with awe into the tomb (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:5,11). The disciples stooped down, and looked intently, with wonder, into the empty tomb, they saw the grave clothes, they questioned in their minds and hearts what this could mean. Our salvation is that amazing, even to the angels of heaven!  Edmund Clowney eloquently said that in our text Peter pictures “...angels peering, as it were, over the battlements of heaven to behold what God has done in Jesus Christ” (Clowney).  How much did the angels understand, and when? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Peter here pictures angels looking searchingly, inquisitively, with wonder, at God’s audacious rescue plan. Such is the Father’s love for us, love beyond all measure!
What is God saying to me in this passage?  God has planned and carried out an unimaginable rescue mission, doing for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves, sending the Son to die as our substitute, paying for our sins.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Are you over-whelmed by the truth of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ?  Could it be that you are here today and have not yet received the new life God is offering you in Jesus?  If so, it is not by chance. This is a divine appointment. God planned this moment in your life. You are one of those miners trapped under a half mile of solid rock. God has devised a rescue plan, a way out of the darkness and into the light. You are the Son’s friend in the stormy sea, and the Father has sacrificed his son and thrown you a lifeline, will you take it? Faith reaches out and receives the gift of life. Unbelief turns away, “It’s not that far to land,” or “The water is not so deep...” or “I’d rather do it myself!”  Take hold of the lifeline! He gave his Son for you! The message is as simple as it is astounding, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him...” (I John 4:9). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life...” (John 3:16). Paul said, “Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved...” You can do that now, where you sit. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved...”  

       And believer, could it be that you have been trying to compartmentalize your faith, keeping God off in a corner?  It can happen because we get busy with life. The time has come to stand up and say, “I have decided to follow Jesus...” There is no call for half-hearted Christianity in the New Testament. Jesus said count the cost. “Take up your cross and follow me...” Two will take the step of baptism today. They are standing up and saying “I am His, and He is Lord.”  It also means choosing to live in the light of the Gospel. Forgiving, because we have been forgiven. Loving one another, because He has loved us. Being gracious, because we have been shown grace.  And get this, he has entrusted the message, the Good News, to us. Who in your sphere of influence, the 8 to 15 people that you regularly interact with, needs to hear?  Throw out the lifeline!                    AMEN.