Monthly Archives: July 2016

ONE CHURCH

ONE CHURCH – One God and Father
Romans 8:14-17 (p. 787) July 31, 2016

Introduction:

Life isn’t fair is it? Think about that. I was born in 1960. A stay at home mom (kinda because she was the most active woman I’ve ever met). A father with a successful job that allowed us to go on vacations together and never worry about food or a roof over our heads. If you haven’t notice I’m white.

One of my best friends in High School was black. He grew up in the projects here in Lexington…a single mom worked three different jobs…to just barely survive. He lived with his grandmother a lot of the time. He had no relationship with his dad. he was born in 1960 as well.

Neither of us chose these circumstances. And neither of us had the power to change them. It wasn’t fair.

People would say…Well, that’s the hand you’ve been dealt…and you’d be right…but why was I given such a life…and why was he given such a life?

Is the child I held in Haiti on the trash heap outside of Port Au Prince worth less? Is John Baptist’s life of less value because he has so little? He had no choice in his circumstances of being one of thousands of street children in the poorest country in our hemisphere…I wonder what John Baptist’s life is like today.

I saw my black friend at Wayne’s funeral a few weeks ago…He’s still the gentle, loving, and kind soul he was in High School only a little grayer.

I’ve got a lot of relationships that make me think: “Life is not fair.” A girl Kari and I “claim” as our adopted daughter…her mom was in prison for shooting her dad…raised by her grandparents because drugs had broken this family apart…How come I got Ozzie and Harriet and she got an episode of “Cops?”

I don’t know the answers to those whys or a thousand others…I do not have the ability to understand why you had to grow up alone or abused while I grew up with security, support and an earthly example of a heavenly father…It’s not fair…life isn’t.

This statement from Jesus echoes through my head and my heart…“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded and the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

The Message version sums it up clearly…“Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities.”

Who determines what gifts are given…and how they are given? Who decides what responsibilities are required?

I. THE ONE WITH A POWERFUL PURPOSE AND PLAN

Our text started out today with these words…“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

Bertrand Russell, an avowed atheist said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”

And there are many who assume there is no God…life is chance…John Baptist’s birth and life…and yours and mine…Just the luck of the draw…chance…and if this life is all we have then it’s about enjoyment…self fulfillment…comfort…even among many who claim belief in God…life and it’s pursuits isn’t a great deal different than the atheists. Belief doesn’t translate into any responsibilities.

Now listen to the parable, the story of Jesus told right before that – “to whom much is given much is required statement.”

LUKE 12:42-48 (p. 727)

Knowing God’s will and God’s plan is only possible if we are led by His Spirit but that Spirit not only leads us to know God’s will…that Spirit enables us to do God’s will.

There is a huge expectation that those who have been given many gifts…are to use them to help others before the master returns.

Ironically many times the opposite happens…we begin to believe that the possessions are ours…we begin to get comfortable with the “much given to us.” And after all Jesus is taking a long time to return…so I’ll eat, drink and get drunk (I’ll take care of me). Jesus says the one who does this is assigned a place with unbelievers.

If you are a believer in God…or someone who is open to that option let me firmly say, God is a purposeful God. He created us for a reason. Scripture teaches that its so we can become adopted as His children…This is true whether you are born in Haiti or Ohio…Rich or poor…Black, white, brown or purple. Long before you were conceived by your parents you were conceived in the mind of God. Isaiah 44:2 says “I am your creator. You were in my care even before you were born.”

You see if there is no God then we are all accidents…the results of some cosmic petri dish with the odds of it happening being so astronomical they are incalculable. And your life and mine would have no purpose or meaning. There would be no right or wrong and no hope beyond your time here on earth. (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, p. 26)

Or you can believe a loving Father created us for a purpose…To be loved by Him and become His children…Both take faith…the difference? One has responsibilities…one doesn’t. So which do you suppose our sinful, rebellious, independent nature is predisposed to choose?

II. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “DADDY” AND DICTATOR

Slaves live in fear…Children who love their father live in obedience…and there is a huge difference.

ROMANS 8:15-16 (p. 787)

The Apostle Paul knew about the Law of Moses…and he also knew about fear…causing it..and feeling it.

He tells Timothy He was a violent enforcer of it. (1 Tim. 1:13). Acts 9 says as a persecutor he breathed out murderous threats against the followers of Jesus…and then he got warrants for their arrest. So he could drag both men and women to prison in Jerusalem.

I’ve met religious people like that, haven’t you? Their lives are governed by a list of rules…and they believe its their job to persecute those who don’t live by them. The rules are what they worship…not the God who made them. Fear, hatred, threats prison…They knew God as a dictator who wants to pour out His wrath.

Know about God, but not knowing God…Then Paul met Jesus…the One He was persecuting…and everything changes.

Louie Cline wrote this poem: I MET THE MASTER FACE TO FACE:

I had walked life’s way with an easy tread,
Had followed where comforts and pleasures led,
Until one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.

With station and rank and wealth for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I had entered to win in life’s mad race,
When I met the Master face to face.

I had built my castles and built them high,
With their domes had pierced the blue of the sky,
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace,
When I met the Master face to face.

I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see,
That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me;
And I faltered and fell at His feet that day,
While my castles melted and vanished away.

Melted and vanished, and in their place,
Naught else did I see but the Master’s face.
And I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meek,
To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”

My thought is now for the souls of men,
I have lost my life to find it again,
E’er since one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.

John the Apostle tells us Jesus left His Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness, and the judgment (John 16:8)…but the purpose of that conviction is not to put us in prison. It’s to show us a Savior…a Savior given so that we could be restored as children…to reveal to us that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) “We are justified (declared not guilty) by His blood and we escape God’s wrath because its been poured out on Him.”

None of us will understand how much “The One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” loves us until we see the cross God’s Spirit reveals my sin…but He points to the Father’s love dying on a cross for me…And like those on the day of Pentecost our hearts are cut…broken…and we cry out “What do I do?” The answer is the same today as it was then, “Repent.” (turn from your sin to Christ.) Be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

That gift changes your relationship with God, and how you knew Him. He no longer is a dictator wanting to keep you in slavery…He is Daddy, “Abba.” And the inheritance He will give His only Son Jesus will be shared with His adopted children…me and you…Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

This is the message our God and Father has for His creation:

One of the great preachers of our time is Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock tells a story about vacationing with his wife one summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One night they found a quiet little restaurant, where they looked forward to a private meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. Craddock leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” He didn’t want anyone intruding on their privacy. But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. “Where you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.

“Oklahoma,” Craddock answered.

“Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?”

“I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University,” Craddock replied.

“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.

Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly and thought to himself, “Oh, no! Here comes another preacher story! It seems like everybody has at least one.”

The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper,” he said. “I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born, so I had a pretty hard time. When I started to school, my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and lunch time because the things they said to me cut me so deep. What was worse was going to town on Saturday afternoons and feeling like every eye was burning a hole through me, wondering just who my father was.

“When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in the church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ he asked. I felt this big weight coming down on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute!’ he said. ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.’ With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’

The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, “Those were the most important words anybody ever said to me, and I’ve never forgotten them.” With that, he smiled shook hands with Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.

And as he walked away, Craddock – a native Tennesseean himself – remembered from his studies of Tennessee history that on two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected to the office of governor men who had been born out of wedlock. One of them was a man named Ben Hooper.

Maybe today is the day you claim it!

Let’s pray.

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ONE CHURCH

ONE CHURCH – One Baptism
Romans 6:1-4 (p. 785) July 24, 2016

Introduction:

Jack Cottrell taught at Cincinnati Bible College for 40+ years and he shared this quote on faith and baptism:

“Both faith and baptism are conditions for salvation, but faith is the means and baptism is the time.”

He then shares this illustration to show what he meant:

The MEANS of bringing something about is not the same as the TIME when it happens. My favorite is the simple process of getting light out of a lamp. Here we can distinguish three things, all of which are “conditions.” First, the SOURCE of the light is the electric power that comes through the wiring of the house. Second, the MEANS of transferring this power to the lamp is the insertions of the lamp’s plug into a socket. Third, the TIME when the light actually comes on is when you flip the switch on the wall (or on the lamp). As applied to salvation, the source is grace; the means is faith; and the time is baptism.

Most of us are familiar with Eph. 2:8 which says “We are saved by grace through faith – and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Grace is the source of salvation’s power…faith is how we plug into it, and the time it occurs is our baptism…when we unite ourselves with His death, burial and resurrection. We receive His Spirit.

You have often heard me say, “you cannot be saved until you realize you are lost.”

This has a great deal to do with the means of our salvation. GRACE.

This amazing gift involves us coming to the realization of our need for forgiveness…and that God has provided the resources for that forgiveness.

[For many years I had an understanding of what was right and what was wrong. In a legal sense I knew that stealing was illegal…that driving fast or recklessly was wrong…but I really didn’t care…It really didn’t bother me until I got caught…The consequences of my sin was what I didn’t like…the sin itself wasn’t that big a deal.

That is until God’s Spirit began to do what He was left here on earth to do in my life…and in yours…and in everyone’s.]

The reason there is “one baptism” that saves us and unites us is because of this Spirit influenced conviction.
I. DYING TO OUR SIN REQUIRES A DEATH BURIAL AND RESURRECTION

Jesus said something really important about “the grace” part of every person’s salvation. Remember God’s grace is the source of salvation’s power…Here’s what Jesus said:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

Our salvation requires a heart change when it comes to sin. Sin is what separates every single one of us from a holy and perfect God…It’s a separation that exists for every person. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

It’s not a separation we can close…and because of that…we are dead people walking around in a temporary body. Most of our choices and pursuits are about our comfort…our pursuits are mostly pride and preference driven…This is what we inherited from Adam and Eve…a nature…a heart that seeks selfishness…and that means “Sin.” Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires…the mind governed by the flesh is death…the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God…and it does not submit to God…nor can it do so…those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

So how can God change minds that are selfish…How does God wake us up to our hostility and rebellion? How does God, in His amazing grace enter this realm of the flesh to save people “dead in their sins?”

Jesus says, “I will send my advocate (my representative…it’s a legal term). When He comes He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn. 18:7-8)

The only catalyst powerful enough to wake up dead people…is the same Spirit that raised Jesus to life…and His wake up call has to do with our sin…that we are all unrighteous…and because of that we stand in judgment before a perfect holy God…and the verdict for us all is “guilty.” Separated from God in danger of an eternal separation.

We would never change on our own…In fact its impossible to understand our lostness because of our sin apart from God’s pursuing us…This is grace…it’s His gift…“At just the right time, when we were still powerless…Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrated His own love for us in this…while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

The perfect God required a perfect payment for all mankind’s sin…So He became flesh…conquered all sin with a perfect life…and then died in payment for every sin…The Lamb of God…taking away the sin of the world…3 days later He rose from the dead proving His authority over death…the last and greatest enemy…That’s the source of grace’s power.

But unless we accept the gift through faith there is no “salvation.” We still remain separated…lost. Faith is how we plug into grace’s power.

Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning so, that grace may increase. By no means! We are those who have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer (Romans 6:1)

When the Holy Spirit brings us to that heartbreaking place that our sin separates us from God…and God Himself paid for it. A faith surrender is called for…Listen to what happens in Acts Chapter 2…Peter preaches:

ACTS 2:22-24; 32-33; 36-41 (p. 759)

Peter shares the message about Jesus…His audience hears it…some believe it…some are “cut to the heart.” The Holy Spirit deals with their sin…It’s a shattering realization that makes them ask “What should we do?”

Peter’s answer “Repent”…which means to turn from sin toward God…and be baptized…literally immersed…completely covered in the name of Jesus…for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit…Grace is the source of salvation…Faith is how we plug into it…baptism is the time.

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…we were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.”

Dying to sin requires our death, burial and resurrection…The power of grace moves us to repentance. Faith allows us to plug into this power as we hear the message of Christ…and baptism is the time of decision. It’s when we surrender in faith to be united with Christ’s power!

II. THIS UNION WITH CHRIST SETS US FREE FROM THE SLAVERY OF SIN

What does Paul mean when he says “We know that our old self was crucified with Him, so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with – that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”? (v. 6)

The key word used here is “ruled.” It literally means “owned.” Our old self…in this body was “ruled,” “owned” by sin.

Sin is the master…we are the slaves. Sin owned our thoughts, our attitudes, our words and our actions…sin chained us up…sin beat us…sin required us to work for him…sin required us to work for him…sin is a horrible owner because he always takes you further than you want to go…He always costs you more than you want to pay…and he always promises freedom…but only provides slavery.
But much like the Israelites who had been newly rescued by God, and because slavery to sin is all that were known…we look back and long for it…maybe the pills…the bottle…the pornography…the toys are the answer…They made me feel free for a while!

Did they? Or were they just a momentary distraction? A period of numbness…sin was enjoyable for a “season.” But then came the time when payment was required…and the price was steep…your marriage, your relationship with family, your integrity, your witness. And guilt and shame wrap you up and put you in a fail you never envisioned…over and over again.

Sin is a liar…Sin is a thief…Sin is a murderer. Addictions are tough to break…and all of us were “sin addicts.” Our old selfs needed an intervention…a crucifixion intervention.

This baptism we’re talking about this morning isn’t about washing dirt from the body…It’s a pledge…It’s a faith surrender…It’s the bringing of a spiritually dead old self, owned by sin to Jesus. The time where repentance leads us to our death…out burial…and as Peter says…It saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)

You see when we are given the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “We too may live a new life.” You see if we have died with Christ…we also believe that we will live with Christ.

Sin no longer is our owner…sin no longer is a ruler…Christ is now our owner…He rules.

Here’s what God’s Word says happens when we receive God’s Spirit at our baptism into Christ…It’s in the same letter to the Romans…Paul follows baptism with these words:

ROMANS 8:5-16 (p. 786)

There is a huge difference between being a slave and being a son (or daughter).

Its God’s Spirit that makes us His child…He signs the adoption papers with the blood of Jesus. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all that are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts)

And it is the promised Spirit, living in the born again child of God that allows us to think like sons instead of slaves. To lovingly serve our Father and others instead of being under sin’s chains.

[Grace is the power…Faith plugs us into it…and baptism is the time we turn it on.]

Maybe today is the day…maybe right now is the time you flip the switch.

Let’s pray.

ONE CHURCH

ONE CHURCH – One Faith
Ephesians 2:1-10 (p. 814) July 17, 2016

Introduction:

Paul tells us we are saved by “grace through faith.”

Let me give you a real quick definition of grace…Grace means receiving something you don’t deserve…it’s different than mercy…mercy means you don’t receive something you deserve.

Like when you were a kid and you took some of your mom’s chocolate chip cookies that she’d made for Christian Women’s Club (this is purely hypothetical you understand) and your mom says “I should give you a spanking…but I’m not.” That’s mercy!

Grace would be mom saying, “Ricky, do you want me to fix you a milkshake to wash those cookies down?” Why yes mother, yes I would.” That’s grace.

There’s a huge difference between mercy and grace…most of us as human beings have extended mercy…even though it’s not easy we don’t speak hateful words back, even if it’s deserved…we don’t hit back…we don’t return hate for hate…that’s mercy…and most of us give out small measures of mercy every day…and need small measures of mercy every day…sometimes large measures.

But grace is different…grace is a gift. And its given not because its been earned…but simply because it’s needed.

Illustration:

[I remember reading a story by Chi Chi Rodriguez, the golfer. He grew up in abject poverty…and one day his father caught a neighbor who had broken into their backyard and was stealing a bunch of bananas. Chi Chi watched his father give the man the bananas…but also a bag of food that amounted to about half of what their family had for the week…THAT’S GRACE.]

Most of us think “that thief” deserved a beating with a stick…and you’re right! But he didn’t get what he deserved…He got mercy…And he got what he needed instead…grace…Grace is a gift.

I. WHAT DO ALL OF US DESERVE?

EPHESIANS 2:1-3 (p. 814)

Paul’s not just telling the Ephesians that they were dead in their sin…that their former life and former choices proved it. He says “All of us also lived like this, like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath…”

Adam and Eve opened the door to sin…They would never be the same after “having their eyes opened because of their disobedience.” Their natures were changed…sin brought selfishness and death into the equation. The serpent had lied when he said, “You will not surely die!.” Adam and Eve surely would…Adam lived 950 years and then died…950 years is a long time…but it’s not forever!

And every descendent of Adam and Eve would inherit this same nature…a selfish one…a sinful one…and the consequence would be the same…death. We as Adam and Eve’s grandchildren times 100 are not responsible for their sin, but we are the recipients of their nature.

“All have sinned” according to Romans 3:23. It’s in our nature…and because of that, we deserve that “beating with a stick.” We deserve “God’s wrath.” We deserve death… “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

Until we experience this truth we cannot truly accept grace by faith.

You see we cannot be saved because we start being nicer…or start doing a bunch of good things to try and make up for the bad things…grace has nothing to do with us…it’s not from us… “it’s the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.”

[It’s so hard for us…in fact for everyone, to not put the cart before the horse…by nature we minimize our sins…by nature we forget them quickly…by nature we maximize the good things we do…we forget them…NEVER! We want to think…good people go to heaven…and because of our nature, guess how many of us think we’re good…statistics say, “1 out of 1” of us. Let’s say some Hail Mary’s, let’s put an extra $20 in the collection plate, let’s help our neighbor cut his grass, like money in the spiritual bank…We’ve earned God’s approval. It’s still selfishly about us…but we’re trying to put more good on the scale than bad so our sins don’t seem so…deadly.]

This way of thinking and living requires no gift of grace…it just requires more good than more sin…It’s almost the exact way the Pharisees lived in Jesus’ day…and it’s why they rejected the need for a Messiah.

Good works don’t cover our sins and cancel them out…the blood of Christ covers our sin and His righteousness justifies our unrighteousness. “All are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of blood – to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:24-25)

“The wages of sin is death…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
II. GOD GIVES DEAD PEOPLE WHAT THEY NEED

EPHESIANS 2:4-6 (p. 814)

Silly question, but “What do dead people need?” You could say, burial…and you’d be right…but if you could give someone whose died anything, what would if be? Life right?

If you love someone dearly and they’re dead…and you could give them anything. You’d always choose another chance at life before you chose a beautiful casket.

I’ve shared this before but I need to share it again here. God did not send his son to die for our sins to make good people better. he gave His son so that sinners could have forgiveness and dead people could have new life.

God’s love is so great that instead of wrath. He extended mercy and grace. He made us alive, even when we we’re dead in transgressions. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him.

Your Spirit (or soul) and my spirit (or soul) is one that goes on forever…at least that’s what scripture teaches and I believe. But as we’ve already said…it’s wrapped up in sin and selfishness. It’s bankrupt when it comes to living forever…unless something changes what it deserves. Wrath and death are its destination…everyone’s destination…But God’s rich spiritually…God is spirit…and He desires to change our natural destination…supernaturally. So He offers a gift…His Son, who will pay for the wages of our sin with His death…He will conquer the wrath of sin which is death by defeating it with a resurrection.

What is the response of dead people who choose God’s gift of life. There’s only one.

III. FAITH IS ACTIVELY ACCEPTING GOD’S GIFT OF GRACE

[I was cleaning out the trunk of Karissa’s car the other day and I found all these Christmas presents in the back from my niece and nephew who live in Chicago. There was this really cool flashlight and tool kit with my name on it…I said what’s this…and Kari said, “Oh, those are from Leann and Jax. I asked Karissa to bring them home from Granny’s. By the way it was the end of May when I found them. I immediately opened the gift…put the tool on my keychain and used the flashlight to look for more presents. My question…when did my niece and nephew’s gift become what they wanted it to be? Only when I saw it, opened it, and started to enjoy it.]

God’s gift is new life through His Son. It’s offered to spiritually dead people through His Spirit of life. When does it become what God wants it to be? When we see it, open it, and start enjoying it.

Faith is our response when we see the gift…If you leave it in the trunk unopened it does no good at all.

Holeman Hunt has a really famous picture called, “The Light of the World.”

Holman Hunt, Light of the World

It’s Jesus standing at a door, holding light for the darkness and knocking to be let in. And the artist did something intentional in this beautiful painting…anyone notice what’s missing on the door? There is no doorknob or latch on the outside. it can only be opened from the interior.

This is the picture of faith…God will knock on the door of our hearts…The Holy Spirit will reveal our sin…He will knock with conviction…The answer starts just behind the door. A Savior holding light for our dark lives…but He won’t kick the door down…we have the doorknob…we have the latch…we must choose by faith to open the door of our lives and invite Him to come in. This is the response of faith.]

If you invite Him in through faith…If repentance leads you to be changed by the death, burial and resurrection of baptism, Jesus isn’t just a houseguest. he makes it His home. His Spirit turns your shack into a temple. “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8)

And that Spirit creates the masterpiece God planned for all along…an instrument to do the good things that bring Him praise and glory…forever. This is the one faith that makes us one family.

Let’s pray.

ONE CHURCH

ONE CHURCH – One Hope
1 Peter 1:1-9 (p. 850) July 3, 2016

Introduction:

Satan is the god of “immediate gratification” and “the quick fix.”

Here’s what I mean by that…“Suppose you’re having a rocky time in your marriage…You begin to think, “I’m not sure I love him or her anymore…and a co-worker or the opposite sex begins to commiserate with you…They listen, and all of a sudden you meet for coffee, privately…“After all, it’s just coffee.” But you recognize feelings of attraction…feelings you’ve missed…and you choose to act on them.

Instead of doing the hard work of making your marriage what you “hoped” it could be…you choose “the immediate gratification” of a new relationship…you choose the “quick fix.”

Maybe an even better example of “immediate gratification” is when we go deeply into debt to buy something we want or can’t afford…We buy things we can’t afford, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like…our house owns us instead of us owning it…our new car makes us feel good when we drive it, but the crushing payment steals the joy.

Why would we do stuff like this? Because we aren’t willing to “wait.” We believe that this new relationship…or new possession will fix the dissatisfaction and pain we feel right now.

It’s not a new scheme…but it’s Satan’s most affective one, and it’s what he used to cause our spiritual grandparents, Adam and Eve, to sin.

GENESIS 3:1-6 (p. 2)

“Did God really say “You must not eat from any tree in the garden.” Doubt is planted…the focus is directed at what is not available…not what is…was it successful…Eve replies.

“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say Don’t eat fruit from one tree, in the middle of the garden…and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

I’m not sure if God said you can’t touch this tree, but the Liar and Deceiver has started the thought process…“God is withholding from me this thing…and I want it.”

The Serpent lies… “You won’t die…God knows that this will make you like Him if you eat it…you’ll have your eyes opened…you’ll know the difference between good and evil.”
It looked good…it was tasty…so she ate, and so did Adam who was with her. “Immediate gratification” and “the quick fix.” Satan’s not a one trick pony, but this is his first trick and his most successful trick.

Hope is defined as “The anticipation and expectation of something to happen.” “Faith is the choice to wait for it to happen.”

For God’s children, faith and hope walk down the same road holding hands…This is the encouragement Peter expresses:

I. WE ARE TO BE GOD’S ELECT IN EXILE

Peter’s first letter is written to believers scattered throughout the world because of their faith…Many who are scattered because of severe persecution…men and women who have been called by the Holy Spirit to surrender their lives to Jesus…and they answered that call.

God’s plan…one He had before creation, was to save us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood. The elect are those who experienced the Spirit’s conviction for sin…and chose the sacrifice of Christ as the answer.

But the hard truth for those who become the elect is: “We still live in a world of sin…temporarily under the control of Satan…the god of this world.”

Our place as God’s people is with God…our home. And our hope is that “we have a place prepared for us, Jesus opened a way for us to be with Him in our Father’s house…He promised to come back for us so that we also may be where He is.”
(Jn. 14:2-3)

That’s our hope…an anticipation and expectation to be with Jesus, and our Father…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…an inheritance kept in heaven for God’s elect.

But what does this hope do to help us while still in exile? Well, God’s Word reveals two ways:

II. IT HELPS US DEAL WITH DEATH AND SHIELDS US DURING DIFFICULTIES

No one likes to talk about death…we’d rather ignore it…we’d rather have distractions that keep its apparition on the peripheral of our everyday lives…But scripture describes it as… “The last enemy to be destroyed.” (1 Cor. 15:26)

Peter praises God the Father of our Lord Jesus because in His great mercy He has given us “new birth” into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Without the resurrection there is no living hope. Jesus paid for our sin, all sin, with His sacrificial death on the cross…but the resurrection proves His authority over death…He conquered the greatest and last enemy…and God’s Word says, “The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you…He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

Death doesn’t win…Death isn’t the end…the same sanctifying Spirit given to us at our baptism into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is God’s guarantee that we share with Jesus as co-heirs of His inheritance in heaven. Paul says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17)

Everyone is God’s creation…but not everyone is a child of God…you must be born again spiritually to be adopted into the family of God…a new birth into a living hope.

How can you know that birth has happened? “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…The Spirit you received brought about your adoption…and to Him we cry “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16)

With this being a reality you don’t have to fear death…or the difficulties of living a life in Exile.

The Apostle Paul echoes this same hope when he writes to the Corinthians.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-5 (p. 805)

This body is temporary…no one wants to live in a tent forever when there’s a mansion waiting for them…especially when the tent starts to fall apart…and your mate or best friend has moved out of the campground.

God made us to live with Him forever…we can’t do it in this sinful temporary body…so He gives His Spirit as a guarantee of our forever home.

That forever hope for the child of God is our “shield of faith.” Our choices are made, not with a view of immediate gratification and a quick fix…but an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1)

Faith isn’t a noun…it’s a verb…It’s an active living truth…It’s a shield we take up as we fight our way home. We trust the power of God until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time…It’s during this short time here on earth that we prove:

III. THE GENUINENESS OF OUR FAITH

Peter says trials come so that the genuineness of our faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though its refined by fire may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus is revealed.

God doesn’t tempt anyone…He doesn’t try to trick us or trap us like the Evil One. But He certainly allows us to be tested so we can grow to be more like Jesus.

And often, for this purpose He will intervene when we have worldly priorities above Kingdom priorities.

Corrie Ten Boom, who survived a Nazi Concentration Camp said, “I’ve learned not to hold onto anything too tightly because it hurts when God has to pry my fingers from it.”

Gold is refined by fire to make it genuine…and pure.

God will seek to grow our trust…our faith…our hope…And He does so by allowing all kinds of trials…and He watches to see if we depend on Him through them…even if we don’t understand…even when he doesn’t immediately take us out of the fire…The revelation of His plan and purpose won’t be revealed until later…and sometimes in heaven…The school of life is a tough university…we get the test first…and the lesson afterward.

I want to see Jesus face to face someday…either after I’ve died or upon His return…either way is OK with me. He rescued me…He saved me…He gave my life purpose and has blessed me more than I could ever testify…Has it been easy? Has there been times of suffering and difficulty…you bet ya!

“Now we see only a reflection as in a minor; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

I love that scripture! Peter’s words seem the same thing:

1 PETER 1:8-9 (p. 850)

The finish line is Jesus…the end result of our faith…the salvation of our soul is Jesus.

[The most powerful reunion I’ve ever had, took place on an army base in Killeen Texas…for almost 2 years my son had been the gunner in a fighting vehicle, he’d had it blown out from under him by an T.E.D…I couldn’t see him for the better part of 18 months…while he was in the most dangerous part of the world at that time. We wrote…we emailed…occasionally we had a phone call…I just wanted to get him home…so when he stepped off that white bus my heart exploded with joy and inexpressible gratitude.

As I read Peter’s words of hope that is the emotion I feel…one day I will step off the bus…walk across the field…and the war will be behind me, and I will see my Father face to face. A father that loves me more than I love Tyler. That’s the finish line!]

Let’s pray.