Equipped to Live

   I.      Introduction

In our lifelong journey, we all want to be better than we are.

We want to be healthier.  We want to be taller.  We want to have more money.  We want to have more friends.  We want a nicer car.

And once we become Christian, we want to be a better Christian.  But I sometimes think we equate being a better Christian with being a better person.  And then we look around at all the perfect people in church and think, “I wish I could be like them, but there is so much garbage and filth in my past, I can never be as good as they are.”

Our perception of what it means to be a better Christian is flawed.  We are putting the cause before the effect, we are putting the “after” before the “before”.  Christians are not better people because we have Christ.  We are blessed because Christ has us.  And that is how we should live.

Peter is writing his letter in 1 Peter 4 to the early church, talking to those who have recently given their lives to Christ.  We have spoken before of this initial transformation of the young Christian; how they one lived as enemies of God and slaves to their own sin, but now chose to be slaves of Christ and begin their eternal lives.  Their eternal lives begin, not after death of the body, but the death of the old life.  We are “born again” into a new family.  But this can be a difficult transition; some new Christians may look back at their old lives and see their old friends partying and enjoying their old sin.  Let’s face it, sin is fun.  Satan doesn’t entice us to the dark side with healthy vegetables.slide2  He entices us with pumpkin cream cheese pancakes.Slide3.JPG

Let’s begin with the first part of our scripture today.  We are in 1 Peter 4, and we have 11 verses to cover.  There are about 35 separate topics in these 11 verses, but we’re going to focus on just 2 or 3 because, well, lunch.

II.      We Are Not Who We Were, 1 Peter 4:1-4

1 Peter 4:1-4,

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

The chapter begins with “therefore” and when you see a “therefore,” we have to ask ourselves what it is there for.  This refers back to 1 Peter 3:18 which describe the life of Christ,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

This was the purpose of Christ, to save lost sinners like you and me.  The death of Christ brought us forgiveness through grace in 3 ways –

  1. Christ’s death fulfilled the Old Testament Law of a sacrificial offering. We know that Jesus answered the Pharisees accusation by saying that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Therefore, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed.
  2. Second, Christ died as a propitiation for our sins. I confess I heard this term for years before I finally studied it, and it’s just a big word for a simple concept.  The bible says that God is a righteous and holy God, and God will not allow sin to go unpunished.  It’s not in His holy nature to say, “well, boys will be boys, I think I’ll let that one slide.”  No, God is a holy and righteous God, and God will punish every sin.  The wrath of God is a terrifying righteous thing.  And over the centuries, man has certainly given God plenty to be angry about.  None of us are innocent; Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The Good News, the gospel itself, is that this wrath has already been satisfied when Jesus was put to death on the cross.  The wrath of God was satisfied when God’s own son was put to death.  That is what propitiation is – God’s wrath, satisfied.
  3. And third, Jesus was a substitution. A guilty man cannot take the punishment for anther guilty man.  Each must serve their own.  But Jesus was perfect, sinless, innocent.  He had no punishment of His own, so He is able to take our place.  And as God, Jesus can take away the sins of you and me.  Jesus can take away the sins of the world.

So this first “therefore” in 1 Peter 4 is powerful.  Jesus suffered and died to defeat sin with his body.  Therefore, we should arm ourselves, we should put on the whole armor of God, and put our sinful past behind us.  We are done with sin.  We are done with sin.

Sin might not be done with us, though.  Our old lives, our old friends, our old decisions, our old life choices want to follow us.  1 Peter 4:3-4,

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

But we are done with sin, and we have armed ourselves in the Armor of God, have we not?  Our old friends are still living that life, and our old friends are surprised when we say we are done with sin.  And when we say, “no thanks, I have a new life in Christ,” they taunt us, they heap abuse on us.  Call us names and ridicule us.

And let’s be honest – when that taunting and name-calling comes from friends, it’s hard.  But the worst part is that the words echo in our old sinful selves, and we taunt and ridicule ourselves.  “Of course I’m not good enough to hang with those perfect Christians and their perfect spouses and their perfect 3.2 children.  I’m a drunkard, carouser, idolater.  Don’t they know what I’ve done?”  We put ourselves in a self-induced purgatory, too good to be with our old sinful friends, but not good enough to be with our new perfect Christian friends.

That’s Satan’s lies.  Our God is bigger than that.  Our God is bigger than any sinful thing we have ever done.  Our God is omniscient, seeing into our black sinful hearts.  Our God is omnipotent and brought His wrath upon our sin and utterly destroying it, separating us from our sin as far as the east is from the west.  Our God saw the worst we had to offer, and yet loved us so much and decided we were worth saving.  He sent His son to die for those sins so we don’t have to live them anymore.  We are free of that past.  And I don’t mean just the past from 20 years ago, but the past all they up to this morning until the moment you walked into this class.  You are an adopted child of the God, the Creator of All.  Your past is gone, yesterday is a closed door and you don’t live there anymore.

You see, we look in the mirror and we see what we have done.  But God looks at us, and He sees what He has done.  He has done a miracle in us.

III.      Judgement Day, 1 Peter 4:5-7

Our primary motivation for living our new eternal lives is gratitude and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for us while we were still yet sinners.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  We know that Judgement Day is coming.  1 Peter 5-7,

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

God gives us a choice on how we would like to be judged.  Our old sinful lives want to be judged by sinful human standards.  If our mind is on worldly things and we desire the approval of worldly people, and turn down the free gift of salvation offered through Christ Jesus, then God gives us what we want.  We are judged according to our deeds, our words, our thoughts.

Revelation 22 is the final chapter of the bible.  The end of history.  In Revelation 22:10-11, it says,

Then he (the angel) told me (John), “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.  Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

The words “let him” implies “let him make his final decision.”  The God Almighty has provided a free choice.  After the Millennium Kingdom, The Book of Life is opened, and for those who have accepted Christ and their names are listed in the Book of Life, they proceed to the Judgement Seat, or Bema Seat of Christ, described in 2 Corinthians 5:10. As Christians, we are judged for our works while in this body, and we receive rewards for those deeds.  And there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, for Christ died to pay the price for where we fall short.

Those that do not choose this gift of life and have decided to be judged on their own efforts and works, they appear at the Great White Throne described in Revelation 20 and judged exactly as they wished.  And everyone at this judgement, without exception, falls short of the glory of God and is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

So this “let him make his final decision” is God granting us our free will forever and ever.  God will not force us to accept His will, but that choice is final.  Dinesh D’Souza gave a speech at Liberty University on Friday night, and began it with this thought:slide10

https://twitter.com/DineshDSouza/status/787270366469222400

That is why Peter tells us,

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

The end of all things is near, but as mortals, we have short attention spans.  We forget our eternal destination and focus on the world around us.  Peter himself was an example of what happens when we take our eyes off of Jesus.  When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter’s eyes were on Jesus and Jesus called him.  And Peter walked on water!  But then Peter looked at the world around him and noticed how high the waves were and how deep the sea was and started to sink.  Peter’s salvation was still secure – Jesus reached in and caught him – but would Peter have sunk if his eyes remained on Jesus?

In the middle of going to work, shopping for groceries, exercising at the gym, we look at our watch and we never think, “What time was the world supposed to end?”  The end of the world seems less important to us than picking up the dry cleaning.  But the end of all things are near, and it’s not hard to imagine the last days becoming closer.  If you forget the end is near, turn on the TV and watch the news for 5 minutes.

So we keep that in mind when we pray, remembering the urgency that comes with the end of the world.  We need to be alert and focused.  But to have effective prayers, the NIV says we must be alert and sober.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible says serious and disciplined.  The NASB says sound judgement and sober spirit.  Others says clear-minded and self-controlled, serious and watchful, earnest and disciplined.  We must be focused on what God wants, not what we want.  We clear our minds and we seek God’s will.

I confess it is a mystery to me why God answers prayers.  He alone is worthy; He alone is just.  He doesn’t need my advice when I come to Him in prayer.  But the bible is clear that our prayers move God to act and that our prayers are like a fragrant aroma to Him.  It pleases God for us to pray.

So we pray for ourselves, we pray for our loved ones, we pray for our neighbors, we pray for our enemies.  We pray out of love for one another, that nobody should face the Great White Throne of Judgement without our Advocate in Christ Jesus at our side.  We pray out of love.

IV.      We Are Not Who We Will Become, 1 Peter 4:8-11

1 Peter 4:8-10,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

I think it is of no surprise that the word for “love” here is “agape,” the love that loves others so much that it is willing to sacrifice for others.  We are to sacrifice for each other with no hesitation or reservation.  I don’t think the NIV captures the essence of the word “deeply” here.  The Amplified bible calls it “intense and unfailing love for one another.”  This agape love is from God working through us and has nothing to do with how we feel.  Sometimes we don’t “feel” loving.  Love anyway.  Sometimes we feel irritated.  Love anyway, because love covers a multitude of sins, both their sins and especially our own sins.

What is agape love?  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us exactly what love is and what is not.  As an engineer, I’m sort of spreadsheet oriented and I’ll eventually have the entire bible categorized properly in a giant spreadsheet like it should be, but for now, here’s a spreadsheet on love that you can stick on your refrigerator:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Attitudes Actions
Love is Love is not Love does Love does not
Patient Jealous Rejoice with truth Brag
Kind Arrogant Bears all things Act rudely
Provoked Believes all things Seek its own
Hopes all things Keep a record of wrongs
Endures all things Rejoice in unrighteousness

slide13Love is easy, and love is complicated.  But it’s worthwhile to reflect on this list.  It’s easy to say we love someone, but harder to actually love someone in action and in attitude.

For instance, the very first words of this list is, “Love is patient, love is kind.”  I don’t know about you, but if this is a definition of love, I didn’t even make it past the first two words.  I’m not always patient.  What’s that old joke, God grant me patience, and grant it to me now?  The things in my life that are my biggest source of frustration seem to be life-long battles.  And I once thought of myself as patient, but I have a better understanding.  Not that I’ve been able to put it into practice, but at least I have a better understanding of where I fall short.

How long does patience last?  A couple of hours?  A week?  A year?  I think any number does the word “patience” an injustice.  In Genesis 18, The Lord is going to wipe Sodom from the earth, but Abraham asks God if the Lord will destroy with righteous along with the wicked.  Abraham starts by asking if 50 righteous people are found for the Lord to spare the city, and the Lord agrees.  Through a serious of humorous bargaining, Abraham then tries to make it easier on himself, so he asks if 45 people are enough.  Then 40, then 30, 20, and then 10.  And the Lord agrees.  But no righteous people were found; Lot and his family were spared, but not because of their righteousness.

Fast forward to 2 Peter 3:9,

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

When Peter says, “The end of all things is near,” and then his next letter says “The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise,” I think of 1 Corinthians 13 saying “love is patient” and John 3:16 that says, “For God so loved the world” that over 4000 years have passed since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  But the end of times hasn’t yet arrived.  So patience is at least 4000 years if you love someone.  To truly understand patience, we must be patient.

As for “Love is kind,” has anyone ever said an unkind word?  It’s hard to keep our tongue in check.  James 3:6 has these kind words to say about our ability to control our tongue:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Now I understand why some monks take a vow of silence.  Ouch.  I have had some progress in this regard by remembering James 3:9, just 3 verses later:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

The thing to remember about how we express love and to who and what attitude we have while we do it … well, that seems to sum up our purpose while we are visiting this big blue marble in preparation for our eternal kingdom.  We are to love our family; we are to love our friends.  We are to love our neighbors.  We are to love our enemies.  In short, we are to lead a life of love that demonstrates the light of Christ in us.

What comes out of our mouth reflects what is really inside our hearts.  When I read about some celebrity or sports figure apologize for something they said, I’ve been seeing this phrase being used, “That’s not who I am.”

A NYPD detective abusing an Uber driver, caught on tape.  “I let my emotions get the better of me…. That’s not who I am.”slide16

Marco Rubio when he was running for President implied that Donald Trump had a small… something.  It was insulting to a man.  But Rubio’s apology? “It’s not who I am and I shouldn’t have said that.”Slide17.JPG

Isaiah Crowell, running back for the Cleveland Browns, after a police shooting death of two black me, posted a graphic picture of a cop with his throat slit.  He apologized, donated a game check to the Dallas Fallen Officer Association and said, “That’s not who I am.”slide18

Dani Mathews, 2015 Playmate of the Year, took a picture of a heavier woman who was naked in a gym shower, with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this, then you can’t either.”  After an uproar, she apologized saying she accidentally posted the photo and … “that’s not who I am.”Slide19.JPG

I find the trend disturbing; people are essentially claiming they are innocent – “that wasn’t me.”  Like somehow if I robbed a bank at gunpoint and say, “That wasn’t me, I don’t rob banks.”Slide20.JPG

But it was them.  And as Christians, we certainly are not immune to saying ugly things.  The only reason it comes out of you is because it was in you.  The only way to keep it from being in us is to fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit so full there isn’t room for our own iniquities.  And if something ugly comes out of our mouths, then we apologize and say, “That was me.  I am sorry.  I am trying to be better but I still often fall short of the glory of God.”slide21

Our scripture verses today end with 1 Peter 4:11,

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

When we profess to be a Christian, every word we speak represents Christ on earth, for we are Christ’s ambassador to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to our family and friends, to our neighbors, to non-believers.   Every word we say reflects our heart and reflects Christ, so we should speak slowly and choose each and every word carefully.  Once you say them, you can’t take them back.

  V.      Conclusion

Our sanctification process is to be a better Christian daily.  We look in that mirror and see what we’ve done or what we’ve said, but God sees what He has done.  We want those two visions to be the same; we want to see what God sees.  And we cannot do this on our own, for we battle daily with our sinful nature and the principalities of this world.

Some days, I hate to admit, that old sinful nature is going to get the upper hand briefly, and we are going to say or do something that hurts somebody.  It will be unloving because we didn’t fill ourselves up with goodness, and we will reflect badly on ourselves and be a poor ambassador for Christ.

Don’t beat yourself up too badly.  It will happen to all of us sooner than later.  Some sooner than others.  None of us are perfect.  And our closest family and friends?  They, too, will say or do something that is hurtful.  But our key verse that wraps all of this together for us is 1 Peter 4:8,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Because of the love our family has for us, we can fail and it’s ok.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Because of the love we have for others, they can fail and it’s ok.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

Because God so loved the world and gave his Son as a perfect sacrifice, a perfect propitiation, a perfect substitution, we can fail, and He still loves us.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

To God be the glory.

Living as Strangers

  I.      Introduction

Be in the world, not of the world.

This phrase isn’t in the bible, but it is a concept expressed by a great many verses.  In John 17:14-15, the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus prays to the Father for all believers,

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

But what does this look like in our lives today?  How do we put this into practice?

II.      We Are Strangers, 1 Peter 2:11-12

I’m going to talk about my travels for a bit.  I have been blessed in a job that gave me the opportunity so see much of God’s creation.  My first overseas trip was to Florence, Italy.  I marveled at the Duomo, walked streets that were 2000 years old, the same streets ancient Romans walked in the days of Jesus.  I saw amazing examples of Renaissance art.

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But I am not Italian.  I was a visitor.

In 1997, I moved to Singapore the day before Chinese New Year.  It’s like moving to downtown Houston on Christmas Eve and wondering where all the people were.  I visited a Christian church that was 99.9% Chinese, and somehow the people in the church noticed me.  I gave my life to Christ there.  I saw a beautiful modern city with streets that were safe to walk in and explored the complicated history of the influence of the Malaysian people and British imperialism.

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But I am not Chinese.  I was a visitor.

Three years ago, I spent almost a year in Scotland.  I played golf on a links course where some of the oldest golf clubs reside.  I ate haggis, nips, and tatties, and I enjoyed it.  I saw musicians on street corners playing bagpipes.  I almost bought a kilt.  After nearly a year, I could almost understand what they were saying.

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But I am not Scottish.  I was a visitor.

If you’ve lived your whole life in Texas, then you’ve probably see the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Butterfly Museum and perhaps you’ve made the drive up towards Brenham in the spring to see the bluebonnets like no place else in the world.  Perhaps you’ve stood on Galveston Beach and wondered how far the ocean stretched, or driven to San Antonio and marveled at the hundreds of miles of flat prairies as far as you can see.

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I consider myself a Texan.  I consider myself an American.  I consider myself an inhabitant of this big blue marble that travels around a small yellow sun.

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And yet, I am still a visitor.  This is not my home.

We should be good guests, enjoy this world, appreciate its beauty, and admire God’s handiwork.  But like good visitors, we take nothing from this trip with us.  We will eventually leave it all behind.

There’s nothing wrong, and everything right, with appreciating everything God has provided for our stay.  But if we have a limited, personal, selfish view of Christianity, we only look at the here and now.  Will being a good Christian help me in my relationships?  Will it bring me better health, a better job, success and prosperity?  Will I feel better?

But if our focus is on this world and how Christianity provides a more fulfilling life, then we do not appreciate that we are visitors.  We try to be permanent guests, we fear death instead of recognizing that our eternal life has already begun and eventually we move to a far, far better place.  1 Corinthians 15:19 says it this way:

If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world.

How then shall we live?  Our scripture today is 1 Peter 2 beginning in verse 11,

I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world!  Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul.  Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.

God has a purpose for our lives if we recognize we are visitors.  We are ambassadors of Christ.  This world offers beauty and wonder, but if we grab it and hold on to this world at all costs, we are to be pitied.  These worldly possessions are always at war against the soul which is destined for a far better destination.  We live for that day, and our behavior should be exemplary.  The pagan world will see our lives and mock us now, but God has a purpose.

If you are in a position where people mock you, don’t give up hope.  Be aware that God using you to demonstrate His love.

 

III.      Submission, Not Rebellion, 1 Peter 2:13-17

How, then, shall we live?  We lead lives of quiet submission.  We lead our lives in the freedom that Christ provides, but also in obedience to His teaching so the world sees Christ in us.  Let’s continue to 1 Peter 2:13-17 –

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

 

Submission.  I don’t know about you, but submission goes against my grain.  I want things my way, I want to go the way I want to go, and I don’t want anybody telling me what to do.  Peter’s admonition, though is that we should submit ourselves.

What is submission?  What does it mean to submit to another?  Peter uses the Greek word hypotassō, and it’s a military term meaning “to arrange in a military fashion under the command of a leader.”  When it’s used in a non-military way, it means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”  I think we give the word “submission” a bad rap because we think it means something worse.

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Submission is Opposite of Submission is Too much submission is
Acceptance Arrogance Wimpy
Willing Resistance Cowardly
Humble Pride Spinelessness
Respect Conceit Slavery

Submission is a voluntary action, not a surrendering or giving up, but a giving in and providing support to others.  True Christian submission is an awesome display of the power of Christ living in us.

Peter is living as a subject of the Roman Empire. The Romans at this time were not especially kind to Christians; Christians who confessed Christ as their Lord were often punished or killed for treason for not obeying the Roman Emperor. The Romans were suspicious of early Christians, suspecting them of insurrection and planning to overthrow the empire. After all, they had their own king.  So in a brutal repressive society, how do you reconcile that with the Christian teachings of freedom in Christ? Did this freedom allow rebellion?  Peter points to the Lord Jesus Christ to see how we are to live.

Let’s start with verse 13,

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.”

I know I rebel in a hundred little ways, I have a natural tendency toward passive aggressiveness.  But here are ten simple words that we all might want to rebel against, but what does Peter call us to do? Submit ourselves. Why?  Not for our sake, but to further the Lord’s work.

Not because those in authority can crush us, but because it is the Lord’s will (and we’ll get to more of this in a moment). To who do we submit ourselves? To every human authority.  God calls us to voluntarily and cheerfully submit to our legal authorities.  We are to obey the law and to be good citizens.  And we do this, not because the government is a huge bureaucracy that can throw us into jail, but because we are to be obedient to Christ.

While our governmental authority seems to be headed off a cliff away from God’s will, in reality, God creates governments to accomplish His will, whether that government is aware of it or not.  Government over us keeps us out of anarchy. In Romans 13:1-7, Paul tells us:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Peter teaches us to submit to the government because the government is teaching us right from wrong.  Submission to authority, cheerfully and willingly.  Be good subjects of the Roman Empire. That doesn’t mean we can’t use legal, peaceful means of bringing change in our government. Certainly as good Christian witnesses we should seek to change those government laws that violate God’s laws; our Christian duty is to be agents of change in this world, but we are to do it within the framework of existing governmental laws.

Are there any exceptions to this rule? Absolutely. We must be careful to set aside our personal desires and goals; those goals are subject to government.  But God’s goals supersedes those of government.  Peter was faced with this exact circumstance in Acts 4:18-20. The Jewish leaders were disturbed that Peter and John were spreading the message of Christ and ordered them to stop, but Peter chose to obey God instead of man:

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

So we are called to follow authority and show respect, but not at the expense of following God’s will.

1 Peter 2:15,

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Like it or not, a government agent is an angel of wrath, to enforce right and wrong.  When we submit to authority, Peter tells us that silence foolish people.  When we’re argumentative and rebellious, we are poor examples of Christ.

Verse 16,

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Jesus came to set His followers free, but this is not a freedom to do evil. In order to be free of sin, we voluntarily become slaves of God. Using our freedom to conceal evil actions is hypocritical.  The world only grudgingly gives respect to Christians, and quickly condemns us when our hypocrisy shows.  Expressing our freedom from sin means we obey every legal authority and not our own selfish, rebellious heart. We are to lead holy lives, set apart lives, and law abiding lives.

Verse 17,

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

I find these distinctions interesting.  We are to show “proper” respect to everyone, but proper respect isn’t equal respect.  The word used here is timaō and it means to estimate the value or recognize the worth of that person.  We show respect to “everyone” because after all, everyone is created in God’s image.  They have intrinsic value as people.slide19

To our brotherhood of believers, though, we show more than respect. We show love, the same kind of love Christ showed for us. The word used is agapaō, or agape love, and it means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly, to be well pleased, to be content with. Christ showed agape love to us to model, and we are to show this agape love to our brothers and sisters.  Submission in the church, and submission even within this bible class leads to the purest kind of love, where we are genuinely concerned about each other and set aside our own vain attitudes.  We are not in competition with each other about who can be the best Christian. Or the worst Christian, for that matter.slide20

And to God, we show “fear.”  Not a scared kind of fear, the word used is phobeō and means to be awestruck, to treat with reverential obedience.  Our God created the heavens and the earth and if He so wished He could smite us so hard we’d be smitten.  We are thankful for the grace He shows us through Jesus that we don’t get the punishment we deserve; Jesus has already taken our place.slide21

slide22And to the king and to people in authority, we are to show honor. The word “timao” is used here again; it means to recognize the value of the person, to respect and honor.  Note that it says we are to fear the Lord but give honor to the king. Jesus made the same distinction in Matthew 22:21 when the Pharisees asked Him if it was right to pay taxes.  Jesus replied,

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

We give our authorities respect and obedience, but to God we give reverence and worship.

 

IV.      Extreme Submission, 1 Peter 2:18-20

Next, in verse 18, Peter addresses a particularly difficult subject, slavery.

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

Where’s that freedom Christ promised? Many early believers were slaves. Educated slaves, sometimes, but still slaves. They served as teachers, doctors, administrators, musicians, craftsmen. Over the centuries, Christian influence about our equal worth as God’s children eventually led to the abolition of slavery, but opposition to the slavery during the time of the Roman Empire would be seen as an insurrection and would certainly bring the wrath of Rome, crushing the early Christian movement.

Peter’s not justifying slavery here in any circumstances.  What he is saying is that, regardless of our circumstances we are to be obedient to those who have authority over us.  If a Christian is in slavery, the Christian is to submit, to obey their master.  We have an innate repulsion to this idea, that slavery is wrong and we should oppose it. And while that is true, slavery shows us an extreme example of how we are to behave as Christians. We are to submit and show respect. Not grudgingly and with an attitude, but respectfully and willingly.  We can extend this instruction to our workplace, to our bosses who are in authority over us.  We are to obey our bosses, be a good example of Christ living within us.  The natural tendency of the unsaved person is to gripe, to badmouth, to fight back.  As a spirit-filled Christian, we learn to submit and let God fight our battles for us.

Verse 19 tells us suffering in slavery or suffering in our job in obedience to Christ brings favor with God.

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

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The word is “charis” and can be translated commendable, finds favor, a reward, good will, but also means grace. As a slave to God, we submit unconditionally, we love unconditionally, we obey unconditionally. How can we do otherwise?  How can we set rules for when and how God shows us grace? We can’t of course; as we learn to submit unconditionally, we learn how God’s grace is provided to us.  Jesus submitted unconditionally; through His submission, God brought salvation to all humanity.  Jesus certainly had the power to resist, to punish the men responsible, but instead Jesus submitted to authority and at the same time showed us how to forgive those who oppress us.

 

Verse 20 also gives us another reason to submit.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

If we do wrong and we’re punished, well, we deserve it.  If I go out to the parking lot and spray paint a bunch of cars and get caught, will anybody respect me for the way I bravely take my punishment?  No, they will say I deserved it.  But if I am innocent and I’m punished, by freely submitting to those in authority, God will find favor in me.  If we spend all day at work surfing ESPN for the latest fantasy football stats and our boss comes in and chews us up, well, we deserved it.  But if we are innocent in these things and our boss treats us harshly, we are to endure it patiently.  We show respect because this brings glory to God.  This is a true test of our faith.  Being a good example when things are going well is easy.  God’s not impressed.  Being a good example when under stress or persecution?  God will find favor in us.

 

  V.      Our Example is Christ, 1 Peter 2:21-25

We are called to do this as Christians. Verse 21 says,

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Christ suffered unjustly for us. When we think about our suffering, think about the suffering of Jesus.  The Romans punished Jesus, flogged Him, and crucified Him to die a slow death on the cross.  What did Jesus do to deserve it?  When our boss tells us to work late, compare that to the suffering of Jesus.  Why do we grumble over minor afflictions when Jesus submitted willingly to crucifixion?  What are the things that irritate you the most?  Coworkers?  Money?  That’s your suffering, yet compare it to the suffering of Jesus.  Who suffered more, you or Jesus?  Who complains more?  Yet verse 21 tells us to follow in His steps. Here’s how Jesus set an example for us when He suffered in verse 22:

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

Jesus suffered and died without a grumble, without a complaint and without a sin.  Because Jesus was innocent, He can take our blame for us.  If Jesus was a sinner, the punishment He received would be His own.  But Jesus is sinless and can offer to take our punishment for us.  Because He can do that, He is our savior.  When we suffer, when we are punished unjustly, Jesus is also our role model, our example. No deceit in our mouth, we hold our tongue and do not condemn.

Verse 23,

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

As the son of God, Jesus could threaten to destroy His oppressors.  He could have said, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog, too.”  Instead, Jesus left us an example.   He committed himself to trusting God to judge. Jesus showed us that a person can be in the will of God, be loved by God, and still suffer unfairly.  Don’t fall for that “feel good” brand of Christianity that says trust in God and you will never suffer.  It’s not biblical; it doesn’t reflect the life that Jesus gave for us.  Instead, unjust suffering at work, at home, in pain or poor health, in loss of a loved one, unjust suffering gives us an opportunity to showcase the Holy Spirit within us.  No threats, no insults, no retaliation, no harsh words.  We trust God will right all wrongs at the Day of Judgment.  By the time Peter wrote this book, Peter had been preaching the gospel for 30 years and the Holy Spirit has made him into a true man of God.  Where once Peter took up a sword to defend Jesus, now Peter preaches submission to authorities.  This is how we lead as Christians; we lead by submission.

The last two verses, Peter reminds us why Jesus is our example.  It’s because Jesus is more than just an example. Jesus is the savior we all need. In verse 24, Peter reminds us what Jesus did for us and why Jesus could do what none of us can.  Jesus is more than “just a good man.”

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus did not die as a martyr.  Jesus died as a savior.  He took the punishment for the sins we commit.  Christ was wounded so we might be healed.  Christ died so that we might live.  Our sinful lives died with the crucifixion of Christ; we are no longer slaves to sin, but willing and righteous slaves to God.  One day we will have glorified bodies, but right now, even some of God’s most favored servants suffer physically.  By the wounds of Jesus, we will be healed of this physical suffering.

And in verse 25, Peter says,

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Every lost sinner is ignorant, lost, foolish, wandering, in danger, and unable to help ourselves.  We have wandered into the wilderness without a Shepherd to protect us.  Before we accept Christ, we have a mistaken belief that we can save ourselves, that we are all we need, yet we spend our entire lives trying to figure out why that hole in our soul won’t fill up with toys, entertainment, knowledge, service.  It’s only when we recognize that we cannot do it on our own and accept Jesus that we truly begin to live in Him. Jesus is our good shepherd; Jesus watches over us and protects us, and nobody can snatch us out of His all-powerful, ever-loving arms.

Augustine of Hippo in 387AD said it this way –

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

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VI.      Conclusion

Be a good visitor to this big blue marble.  Show the love that Christ showed to you, not because you deserved it, but because you didn’t deserve it. And through our good behavior, silence the foolish talk of the world.  For we know Christ lives through us and in us and we can do all things through Christ our savior.

To God be the glory.

Persecution & Hope

  I.      Introduction

We begin today a brand new series, and I’m always overwhelmed with the amount of wisdom that is packed into each verse of the New Testament.  We have nine verses to study today, and we could easily do an entire lesson on just the first word.  Got your bibles ready?  Let’s start at 1 Peter 1 verse 1.

II.      To God’s Chosen, 1 Peter 1:1-2

Today’s lesson is actually a very good illustration of something I’ve said numerous times; standing in front of the class to teach is not a goal of mine.  I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned, but actually standing here isn’t something I crave.  But I would say 90% of what I know about the bible has come not from listening to the Word, or even reading the Word, but from preparing to teach.  We have 9 verses to study today, but let’s just read the first two, 1 Peter 1:1-2,

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

When I first sit down to study, I read the verse once and sort of let it sink in, sometimes up to a week.  Then when I sit down to prepare, I start jotting notes down and try to arrange them in an outline that makes sense.  Here’s the notes I jotted down from the first two verses –

  • Peter the apostle. Discuss life of Christ, how Peter was selected as a fisherman, denied Christ 3 times.  In the book of Acts, he was described as “unlearned and ignorant,” yet he penned several books of the New Testament and Christ built His church upon him.
  • God’s elect, chosen through foreknowledge, free will versus God’s will, Arminianism vs Calvinism,
  • God’s exiles, sometimes translated as “temporary residents” or “aliens in a foreign land, and how believers with the Holy Spirit inside find their moral values are different from worldly values.
  • Geography, how the Christian church spread in the first century
  • Sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, not through our own works
  • Obedience in Jesus Christ.
  • Covered by His blood, saved from our own sins by His substitutionary death.
  • Grace and peace, gifts of the Holy Spirit. And in abundance, too.

These are just the topics I identified in just the first two sentences of 1 Peter 1.  My point is, when we study the bible as a class, it is worthy and provides us knowledge, but there is no possibility that 30 minutes a week is sufficient to understand all our heavenly Father wants to teach us.    If you and I want to get closer to our God, then we must spend the time to get to know him in our own individual reading and studying.  It is a privilege for us to be able to study His Word when in so much of the world bibles are difficult to find or are banned outright.

Why were these early Christians in exile?  This world persecution of Christians goes all the way back to the first century church.  While many of the apostles like Peter showed their human weaknesses while Jesus was in their midst, every apostle except John (who died of old age) was eventually martyred proclaiming the good news of the Christ.

In the USA, we believe we see persecution of Christians.  In California, Christian adoption agencies are closing because the state forces all adoption agencies to accept same-sex parents as well as provide contraception as part of their health care for adoption agency employees.  Christian businesses are closing in several states because they won’t make cakes for lesbian couples or take wedding photos for gay men.  These are most definitely challenges and persecution of Christian values.Slide3

But in Philip Yancey’s book, “Where is God When it Hurts?”, quotes Helmut Thielicke, a German minister who survived Nazism and World War II.  Helmut was asked, “What did he see as the greatest weakness among American Christians?”.  Helmut answered, “They have an inadequate view of suffering”.

So while in Houston, Christians struggle to preserve the Ten Commandment display at a Veteran’s cemetery, OpendoorUSA reports that around the world, 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month, and 214 Christian churches are destroyed.  I saw the movie this past week called “The Insanity of God” and the story of a missionary who had traveled the world, witnessed dying children in Somalia, the imprisonment of the faithful in the former Soviet Union, and the persecution of believers in China.  As he spoke to some underground Christians in China, he noted that before the Cultural Revolution of Mao Tse Tung, there were 400,000 Christians.  Today, after decades of persecution, there are 50 million.  And the underground Christians asked the missionary, “Have they heard about Jesus outside of China yet?”Slide4

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp why God allows the persecution of His people, and I can’t begin to understand all of His purpose.  But it’s unmistakable that persecution allows demonstration of His mercies.

 

III.      Saved, Now and Forever, 1 Peter 1:3-5

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Once Saved, Always Saved?”  It was a phrase that I had heard but didn’t think about it too much.  My first thoughts are, “well, it’s not in the bible” and “if you could see the way some people live, they couldn’t possibly be saved.”  And if you continue that line of thinking, eventually you get to wondering, “Am I saved?  And if I am saved, can I lose my salvation?  What do I have to do to earn eternal life?”  In 1 Peter 1, we will find rest for our souls and comfort that our inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven is secure.  Verses 3-5,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Are you pretty sure you’re going to heaven?  How about, unless something goes horribly wrong, there’s a good chance you’re going to heaven?  Or do you absolutely know, without a doubt, 100% guarantee, that you’re going to heaven?  God wants you to know and be absolutely confident, because there is joy and peace in this knowledge.  Let’s look at some other scripture that backs this up.  1 John 5:13,

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

It doesn’t say we should “think” we have eternal life.  It says we may *know* we have eternal life.  It’s not arrogance to say that I know I will go to heaven.  It’s confidence, not in my ability, but in Christ’s sacrifice.  Once a person places their trust in Jesus, God immediately and irrevocably grants that person eternal life and salvation and a guaranteed place in Heaven that can never be lost, regardless of what they do or what they don’t do.  It’s not based on you.  It’s not based on me.  It never was.  It’s entirely based on what Jesus did.

In John 5:24, Jesus says,

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

Jesus uses several tenses of verbs to make His point clear.  When He says, “has” eternal life, Jesus uses the present tense.  Then He switches to future tense, “will not be condemned”.  Jesus says believers have it!  And if that wasn’t clear enough, Jesus says the believer “has crossed over from death to life.”  Jesus switches present tense to perfect tense, and is saying that the believer has already crossed, always will be crossed over from death to life.  We are new creations already, we don’t become new creations after we die.  We *have already* crossed over, we *have* eternal life, and *will not be* condemned.  Past, present and future.

John 3:36:

Whoever believes in the Son *has* eternal life.

John 6:47:

I tell you the truth, he who believes *has* everlasting life.

It is an irrevocable contract Jesus makes with us when we confess Him as our Lord, written here in the Good Book for us to read the fine print anytime we wish.  What does Jesus promise to do for us as our Lord?  Well, here’s the fine print of the contract:

  • Hebrews 10:17, God says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” You and I can’t forget, as hard as we try, but God will remember no more.  Poof, it’s as if they never happened.  With the blood covering from Jesus, we become pure in God’s sight.
  • Philippians 4, our names are inscribed in the Book of Life. Again, not *will be* inscribed.  They *are* inscribed.
  • Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”   No condemnation.  Freedom.
  • Micah 7:19, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Deeper than the Titanic, our sins are buried in the sea.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” The Holy Spirit lives in us, takes up residence, and gives our conscience a kick-start.
  • Galatians 4:6, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” We become adopted by God, we are His children, His heirs.  We are no longer slave to sin and the death that comes with it.
  • Romans 8:31-33, God has chosen us, we are God’s elect, and if God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Ephesians 1:13-14, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Marked, sealed, identified, stamped.  Seems like every translation I read used a different word here.  Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours.  We are indelibly branded, permanently stamped, and guaranteed our inheritance.
  • John 10:27-28, Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus becomes our shepherd, we become His sheep, He gives us eternal life, we will never perish, and no one can change that.
  • Any loopholes left in this contract? Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Looks like an absolutely iron clad contract to me, how about you?

So this salvation we already have.  This eternal life we already have.  Heaven is a destination where we go when our mortal chores are through, but our place there is already guaranteed.  I know if I could do something to lose my salvation, I’d have done it already.  I’ve messed up so many times and if I was given a second chance, I’d just lose it again.   Sometimes I can go for 6 or 8 hours in a row without sinning, but then I wake up and have to get out of bed.  This is great news, knowing we’re eternally saved. In order for us to lose our salvation, all the terms of the contract would have to be abolished.

  • Somebody would have to find some sort of loophole in the contract that isn’t up or down, present or future, angel or demon, and convince Christ not to love us anymore.
  • We would have to change from Christ’s sheep into a toad.
  • We would have to remove the brand He sealed onto us.
  • Somebody would have to snatch us right out of the hand of Jesus even though He chose us.
  • God’s adoption papers would have to be cancelled and He writes us out of the will.
  • Holy Spirit would have to be evicted out of His home in our heart and told to find someplace else to live.
  • We would have to dive to the very bottom of the ocean and dredge our sins back up.
  • Somebody would have to remind God of all the things He’s promised to remember no more.
  • And somebody would have to make God into a liar for putting all these promises down in writing.

Ya know, I just don’t see any of that happening.

So what about all those difficult questions about “Once saved, always saved?”  What if I claim to be a Christian, but don’t seem to be living a Christian lifestyle?  I party and drink and do drugs and sleep around and so forth – am I still going to heaven?  And what if I say I’m a Christian and I know I’m going to heaven, does that mean I can do anything I want?  Lie cheat and steal, take candy from babies or be a serial killer?  Am I still going to heaven?  How about if I say I’m Christian, but then I curse God to His face, turn my back on Jesus and says I want nothing do with those uptight religious freaks anymore?  Am I still going to heaven?  And what about when I hurt or when I’m depressed and I just don’t feel like getting up and going to church anymore?  Am I still going to heaven?

Great questions.  I hope somebody here can answer them, these were hard and I ran out of time studying.  No seriously, they are great questions, and the answers are in this same Good Book.

Number 1.  What if somebody claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t seem to be living a Christian lifestyle?  Partying and drinking and so forth?  I think it’s important to remember that eternal salvation is granted when you confess with all your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord.  God does the rest.  If we think our actions before God are better than somebody else’s actions, we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Jesus did for us.  Romans 3:20 says,

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.

No one, no matter how good we try to be, is good enough for God.  Any righteousness we have comes not from ourselves but from accepting the blood covering of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.  Ephesians 2:8 says,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

It has nothing to do with what we do.  We don’t gain eternal life because of our good performance, and we don’t lose eternal life because of our bad performance.  It’s Jesus plus nothing; it’s a gift.  The church of Galatia thought the same thing, and Paul gave them a dressing down.  In Galatians 3 Paul writes,

You foolish Galatians! […] After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

2 Timothy 2:13 Paul says,

if we are faithless, He will remain faithful.

Getting into heaven has nothing to do with our human performance and everything to do with God’s grace.  We don’t sing Amazing Human Performance in worship for a reason, we sing Amazing Grace.  So if somebody has truly accepted Jesus Christ but doesn’t seem to be living a Christian life, they still have their admission ticket to God’s Grand Afterlife Party.

Number 2.  If our salvation is secure, does that mean we can do whatever we want?  If I’m going to heaven no matter what I do, why does it matter what I do?  Why not lie, cheat and steal?  Why not cheat on my spouse?  Why not party like it’s 1999?  I’m going to heaven!  Well, there’s a serious problem with this.   You may have that invitation to God’s Grand Afterlife Party and you are guaranteed entry, but what you do in this life has everything to do with what kind of reception you’ll get when you get there.  1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

The foundation is Christ, and with our mortal lives we build on that foundation.  We can build on it with long lasting stuff – obedience, servant hood, prayer, humility, or we can build on it with disobedience, arrogance, and selfishness.  The choice is up to us.  But there will come a day of Judgement where we stand before Christ, and all our earthly deeds will be exposed for what they are.   Everything bad or worthless will be burned away, and if there’s anything left, there’s a reward.  What kind of reward?  I don’t know – I’m guessing something made of chocolate.  All I know if there’s a line forming to collect a reward from the almighty God, I want to be in that line.  What if your building is all gone?  Well, you don’t get any chocolate, but you yourself will be saved.  You’re not in heaven because of the building, you’re in heaven because of the foundation.

Number 3.  What if somebody turns their back on Jesus, renounces God, becomes an atheist.  Are they still going to heaven?  Let me tell you a story about Robert Robinson, a young teen who lived in London from 1735 to 1790.  He was a delinquent teen, but at 17 took his gang to an open air revival service where George Whitfield was preaching to “laugh at the poor deluded Methodists.”  Two and a half years later, Robert Robinson gave his life to Christ.  He felt the call to preach, was appointed by John Wesley to pastor the Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Norfolk England, writing powerful sermons and hymns, and at the age of 23 wrote this powerful hymn:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Slide21Beautiful hymn, and 250 years later we still praise our Lord with these words.  But these words were a spiritual, prophetic autobiography.  Robert Robinson did not stay in the fold of Christianity, eventually dismissed by the church and he returned to his sinful ways, eventually turning his back on Christianity and became Unitarian who does not believe Jesus was the only Son of the Father.  In his later years, while taking a stagecoach ride, and in a non-Christian condition, a female passenger offered to share a poem with him, that it might help him as it had helped her, and she began to read “Come Thou Fount” to him, and when she got to the third stanza,

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Robert Robinson broke down and cried and said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”  Robert Robinson never did return to Christianity, and died denying the deity of Christ.

So what happened?  We can’t know for sure, can we, because we can’t ever know Robert Robinson’s heart.  But we do know this – if he ever truly trusted Christ, then yes, Robert Robinson is in heaven.  Even if we are faithless, God is faithful.  In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus tells us what happens to people like this.

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

Slide23In order to produce fruit, you have to be connected to the sap of the Holy Spirit.  If you’re not connected, the best you can produce is leaves, and Jesus says if you’re not connected to the sap of the Holy Spirit, the sap of the church of a body of believers, you wither.  You become bitter and angry.  I’ve never met a person who has accepted Christ and then turned his back on him that was a joy to be around.  They’re hurtful, mean, selfish people.  But when you’re connected to the sap, you produce fruit.  So when you meet a person like this, either they never truly gave their heart to Jesus, or they did give their heart, but through circumstance, weakness, persecution, suffering, whatever, they turned their back on Jesus.  It’s not for us to determine, but the Lord knows their heart, and if they truly gave their heart, they’re in heaven.  But not in the chocolate line, they’re in the … carob line.

Number 4.  What if I just don’t feel saved?  What if I don’t feel connected to the Holy Spirit, or connected to the church.  Am I still going to heaven?  One of Satan’s tricks in our materialistic secular humanistic society is the “do what feels good” philosophy.  Feel bad about debt?  Go shopping until you feel good.  Feel bad about weight?  Eat until you feel better.  Don’t like your spouse?  Get a divorce.  And you look at our society and see what happens to us when we let our feelings determine our direction.   When our feelings are at the wheel, we don’t have any idea what direction we’re headed.

I know exactly firsthand what happens when you let feelings rule.  I have let my feelings drive me right off a cliff.  But you know what?  Christ caught me.  Now instead of trying to get happy and going in whatever direction I wanted to, I let Christ take the wheel and let Him determine the direction, and I ended up far happier than when I was trying to be happy.  Matthew 6:33,

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Feelings aren’t supposed to be driving your around; feelings are supposed to be in the passenger seat.

So do your feelings determine whether you’re going to heaven?  Does John 3:16 read,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,

as long as he feels like it?  John 5:24 says,

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

How do your feelings change that?  John 10:28,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Unless, of course, they’re unhappy?

Where do feelings come into play?  Our feelings are something we do, and nothing we do will gain or lose our salvation.  I think we try to make this complicated, but it’s almost too simple to believe.  God gives us the gift of salvation, and we say “thanks.”  That’s it, and nothing we do or feel or say will change that.  No performance evaluation, no report card.  Just grace.  Our destiny is already safe, already secure, we are already eternal beings.  And when we are eternal, when we are not afraid to die, then we are not afraid to live.

IV.      Rejoice Always, 1 Peter 1:6-9

This is indeed cause for celebration.  In 1 Peter 1:6-9, Peter goes on to say,

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter says praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that our inheritance awaits us and to rejoice.  Rejoice!  Again I say, rejoice!  I rejoice because despite the persecution of the church, those who have place their faith in Christ Jesus are already receiving the result of our faith: the salvation of our souls.  We already belong to him and nothing, not death nor life, not angels nor demons, not the present nor the future, nor any powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to change that one teeny bit.  Our destiny is safe.  Today is the day that the Lord hath made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  And let nothing steal that joy, for Christ Jesus loves us so much that He gave His very life for us.  And nothing, absolutely nothing that the world, others, or even ourselves can do, can take that away from us.  We are saved, permanently, now and forever.

Once Saved, Always Saved?  It really is that simple.  Don’t complicate it with man-made judgments and opinions.  Salvation is a gift through Jesus that is eternally secure.  To receive it, all we have to do is ask.  And all we have to do to keep it is… nothing.

  V.      Conclusion

Peter tells us that through Christ Jesus we have come into an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, and that this inheritance is kept in heaven and protected by our all-powerful God.  Let us have no more doubts, no more fears.  Absolutely knowing that there’s not a thing I can do to mess this gift from the Lord brings me peace and inexpressible and glorious joy.  I have been set free.  The salvation of my soul is secure, kept in heaven for me and shielded by God’s power.

To God be the glory.