Getting to the Root of My Problems

Slide1           The companion booklet to this message series (available on Amazon) is titled, “Change me.”  I want you to read the sub-title; Notice what it says… “When you really want to change.”  Here’s what is interesting about that sub-title; sometimes we don’t actually WANT to change!

Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to repeat the same mistake a few days later?  Have you ever vowed to stop sinning, only to do it again just hours or even minutes later?  Mark Twain once wrote, “To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.”

“I’m never going to smoke again…” and suddenly you have this indescribable urge to have cigarette, or drink, or gamble, or whatever.  What IS it with us humans? Why do we act so contrary to our own self-interests … and so often?

Our problem isn’t lack of information. Bookstores are stocked with countless books about how to eat less and exercise more; dozens of experts advise us to save and invest our money; wise friends warn us to stay away from troublesome lovers. We have plenty of information on getting rid of clutter, managing time, overcoming addiction, managing our finances, and becoming a better person. But all this information doesn’t appear to really change us. We know what we should do but we still don’t do it.

In fact, all too often we do just the opposite of what we know is good for us! We overeat and under-exercise; we spend every last nickel; we fall in love with and marry the wrong person – again. We buy useless stuff we don’t need nor afford, we procrastinate and fritter away time, neglect our bodies, drink to excess, are overcome with anger, distress, depression and anxiety. If anyone else treated us the way we treat ourselves, we’d be outraged![i]

Paul summarized our problem in Romans 7:15, “The things that I want to do, I fail to do, and instead I do the things that I hate myself for doing.”  (paraphrase).

So why do we do the things we do?  What are the root causes of my sins?  If we don’t address the real reasons behind our sin, we will only treat it superficially, adjusting our behavior, not our hearts. God doesn’t want mere behavioral adjustment; he wants affectionate obedience!  Nor will mere attempts at behavioral change really change our deepest motivations.

Many of our sins can be traced back to a deep erroneous belief or a serious fallaciousSlide2 lie. These false promises of acceptance, approval, satisfaction, worth, beauty, and significance have deceived us. If we are to discover true freedom we need the ability to expose those lies. Cultivate a habit of looking beneath your sin to expose the lie underneath it. Once we understand why we sin, we can replace those false promises and the truth that will set us free.[ii]  The Psalmist put it this way:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

Slide3

You have probably seen this phenomena in the forest somewhere.  A tree falls down flat on the ground.  But instead of dying, it sprouts branches that turn into three or four or five trees.  It doesn’t do any good to cut off those shoots.  If you want to kill the tree, you have to pull it out by the roots!  This morning I want to review four root causes of sin, so that you can begin to remove the root and not the shoot.

Slide4#1.  Bad Company – 1 Cor 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad companions corrupt good morals.”

As a root problem, this one is a little different than the others because this one can also be a symptom of a deeper problem.  The truth here is that you often end up imitating the kind of people that you hang around with.  Or (the deeper problem) you hang around those people because you are like them already.  Friendships are critical to faith.  Be careful who you associate with.

If you want to be a successful Christian, hang around other good Christians.  If you want to stay sober, stay away from drunks.  If you have a problem with gossip, don’t hang around the gossip circle.  If you struggle with depression, keep away from people who drag you down.

But please be wary of the danger of blaming the people around you for the way you behave.  Don’t play the blame game, you know the one where you blame your job, your wife, your dog, your mother-in-law, your neighbor six doors down, the media, the government, the receptionist at your doctor’s office, the culture, God, millennials, your lack of education, your medication, the devil, or the dressmaker who measured you wrong as though somehow everyone else is responsible for the problems that you have.

Slide5

If you are hanging around bad company, it’s your problem.  Walk away.

Slide6#2.  Unbelief or Ignorance – Eph 4:17-19

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer live as the rest of the Gentiles live, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

There are two things that Paul is saying in these verses.  #1 Pagans live their lives based on unbelief, ignorance of God’s Word and blindness to spiritual things.  Because they have never been saved and transformed by Jesus they often see nothing wrong with sin, in fact they celebrate it.  Without God, they think nothing is wrong with getting drunk, getting high, becoming transgender, or indulging in lust… and the list goes on.

But they are paying a terrible price for their ignorance and unbelief.  Is it any surprise that transgenders have a suicide rate of 40 percent or that Homosexuals are 3 times as prone to suicide?[iii][iv]  Does it surprise you that Alcohol abuse is involved in over a quarter of suicides?  You cannot sin and get away with it.  You cannot rationalize or justify your sin and get away with it.

What is the answer to the Pagan problem of overindulgence in sin?  You must be born again!  You must submit your life to Jesus.

The second thing that Paul is saying in these verses is to Christians:  #2 Christians are not to live like pagans.  We are not to live in ignorance or unbelief.  There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant of sin.  The Bible clearly lists numerous hazardous sins that we are told to avoid.  We are not to justify them nor celebrate them.

Slide8

But Christians often live in unbelief?  One of the root causes of sin is unbelief.  James 1:6-7 tells us that if we doubt that God can answer our prayers, we cannot expect to receive deliverance or anything from the Lord.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to take up the shield of faith in order to quench the fiery temptations of the Evil one.  Faith is the opposite of unbelief.  While Pagans live in unbelief, Christians must not follow their example.

Slide9#3  A Pleasure Driven Heart – James 1:13-14

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

Hebrews 11:25 describes our problem as “loving the pleasures of sin for a season.”  James 4:1-4 traces our problem to our selfish desire for pleasure.  We want what we want to spend it on our own pleasures.

Sin would be very easy to avoid if it weren’t so pleasurable. There isn’t a single sin that doesn’t carry a pleasure (whether it is a worthy pleasure or not). If sin didn’t contain this aspect, it would be very easy to avoid it.

Sin and pleasure have a very troubling relationship. When we first are enticed into a sin, it is the potential pleasure that lures us. As we become more impassioned, we often find that the pleasure which we once received is no longer experienced, or if it is still there, it is weakened and often even disappointing.

The fact is that we love our sin and it is destroying us.  It is not so much that our anger is destroying us, it is that we love to be angry!  It is not so much that laziness is destroying us, it is that we love to be lazy!  It is not so much that our anxiety is destroying us, it is that we love to worry!  We love to gossip! We love to lust!

Slide10

1 John 2:15 challenges us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

We need to pray that God would give us a personal revulsion and disgust for the sins that we commit.  And a desire to please Him instead of pleasing ourselves.  That leads us to our final root of our sins.

Slide11#4 Lack of Love for God – Matthew 22:37-40

In Matthew 22, Jesus explained that there is really only one way to overcome our sin and obey the Law.  This was His solution:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Modern psychology suggests all kinds of ways to modify your behavior, but they fail to get at the root of the problem.  The root is this, you love your pleasures too much, and you don’t love Jesus near enough.  To really change your heart, you must pray, and ask God to give you personal revulsion for sin and a deep and emotional love for the Savior.  Only love is enough to change your heart.  Love for God and love for your neighbor.

Galatians 5 expands on this idea.  3 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

This then is the answer to changing the root problems of your life.  You must seek to love Jesus more than you have ever loved Him before.  You must seek to live a life focused on the Holy Spirit.  Your new passion and love must be Jesus.  If you do not remove love of pleasure and replace it with love of Jesus, you will never find the motivation to change.

Slide12

What is your motive for action? What drives you in your life today? if we misunderstand the root of our problem, we will miss TRUE and COMPLETE healing! It’s like trying to treat cancer with a Band-Aid.  Have you failed to love the lord and your neighbor with all your heart?  Have you failed to live in the spirit and think on spiritual things?  I’m here because I believe that a passionate love for Jesus is the force that will change your life.  Because I believe that the invisible force of internal drive, activated, is the most important thing that will successfully fix the root of the problem in your life.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bj-gallagher/why-dont-we-do-the-things_b_409428.html

[ii] https://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/04/know-your-sin/

[iii] http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/07/evidence-the-transgender-suicide-rate-isnt-due-to-discrimination/

[iv] https://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/student-journals/P12_Schaaff.pdf

What’s My Motivation for Change?

Every one of us is a little dysfunctional.  For some of us life sucks.  Many are struggling with deep, dark, demons like depression, anxiety, anger, alcoholism, addiction, gossip, bitterness, lust, or resentment.

We all have some character flaw we inherited from our parents, some bad habit we picked up somewhere in the past, some unhealthy defense mechanism we default to, some faulty belief that is deceiving and degrading us, or some terrible sin we’ve become addicted to which we just can’t shake.

For example, In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.[i]

We are in serious trouble. I feel the turmoil, confusion, and pain of the people I associate with. It touches my heart to see their struggles.  We want to be better.  We want to be free from our sins.  It’s just that we’ve tried and failed so often that we have begun to wonder whether or not there is any hope.  I love this little saying I ran across this week: “You can’t keep dancing with the Devil, and then wonder why you are still in hell!”

Whatever your regret, Christ has the answer.  You’ve tried but you can’t, but with Jesus, you can.  That’s why I’m preaching this series of messages.  That’s why Jesus died!  He came to free you from your sins.  I’m going to take you through a series of steps, which, if you follow them faithfully and sincerely, Jesus will faithfully deliver you.

The very first thing you must do is to do an examination of yourself to determine why you want to change.  At first it may seem like a no brainer.  After all, you’re broken and you want to be fixed.  You are hurt, and you want to be healed.  What more, besides that, do you need to know?

For the answer to that, let’s look at the success rate of New Year’s Resolutions.  Is anyone in here still keeping their new year’s resolution?  It turns out that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.[ii]  According to U.S. News, 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[iii]  That number eventually increases to over a 90% failure rate.  The University of Scranton researchers suggest that only 8% of the people actually achieve their goals.[iv]

Why is that?  It turns out that motivation is critical!  Most people fail because they fail to maintain their motivation for a long period of time.  Your motivation will have an exacting, direct impact on your success.  In your booklet on page 6, there is a list of motivations.  Look it over and check all motivations that apply.

I want to overcome my sin because:

  • I am embarrassed or ashamed of how I act.
  • I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
  • I want to stop hurting myself and / or others.
  • I want to be successful.
  • I want to be a better mother / father / husband / wife etc.
  • I don’t believe Christians should act this way.
  • I want to live a holy and pure life.
  • I want to please / glorify God

While some of these may be good motivations, and while we may be motivated by several of them, the reality is that there is one motivation that outshines them all.  There is one motivation, that without it, you might as well join a self help group or go to a secular psychologist, because without this essential value in place you can’t honestly ever expect to fix yourself.  What is that motivation?  Let’s find out.

Today I am going to lead you through three powerful motivations, and show you how you can put them to work for you in changing your life.  Here is the first one.

The Motivation of Fear

the motivation of fear

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

There is much we could discuss here, but I want to focus on one statement, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… 11 Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”

Fear is a great motivator.  We have a tendency to dismiss fear as a weakness, but it’s not that simple. Fear can be incredibly useful.   Fear can be your friend in just the right doses.  There is healthy fear and there is unhealthy fear. Fear can preserve your life from doing stupid stuff. Fear of breaking the law and fear of angering others can prevent you from making stupid choices.

There is one fear that stands out, among all other fears that we ought to nurture, and that is the fear of the Lord.  Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Here’s why.  God knows what you are thinking, even when no one else does.  God knows what you are doing even when no one else is around.

So it is essential that we gain an attitude of respect toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him.  So how do you gain a healthy fear of God?  #1 Recognize his presence daily and cultivate his presence.  Spend time in prayer with the Almighty.  #2 Meditate on God’s Word and the majestic greatness of God.  Remind yourself he is all powerful.  #3 Act as though God is with you at all times, because He is.  When you fail, admit that you’ve been caught.  When you are wrong, seek his forgiveness.

2 Corinthians 5:10 gives us another way to cultivate the fear of God.  Recognize that God will one day reprimand your wrongdoings and reward your obedience.  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  If you want to get better, cultivate fear.

The Motivation of LoveThe Motivation of Love

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

The Love of Christ compels us.  Fear motivates, but only in proper doses.  Love also motivates.  It is a higher motivation.  In fact, Jesus said that the number one thing you can do is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Virtually nothing motivates a person more than love.  Being deeply loved gives you strength, loving deeply gives you courage.  When I look at the great men and women in literature, art, music, science and achievement, I notice one defining commonality between all of them –they did what they did because they loved it!  They overcame because Love is motivational.

Love is compelling.  Love is a motivation that will produce lasting change in your life.  You do what you love, and you avoid hurting those you do love.  The love of Christ compels us – verse 15 – so that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us.  If you fall in love with Jesus, You will soon quit living destructively, and begin living for Him!  That’s what love does!  Love compels us to change.

Above all things, cultivate your love for Jesus.  Remind yourself daily how much you love Jesus and want to serve Him.  Tell Jesus that you’ll serve him and obey him and do anything He says.  Love intensely, and love will change your life.

The Highest MotivationTo Glorify God

1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The highest motivation of all is the Glory of God.  If you are only trying to get better because of you, your motivation will be limited to what you can do.  But if you want Divine transformation, you must have your motivation right!  You must decide to live a pure life because it pleases God.  You must want to overcome sin because it displeases God.  You must decide right now that the purpose of your entire life, and every action of your life is for the highest reason ever: to glorify God!

What does it mean “to glorify God?”  Glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by bowing before him because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped.

Notice the implications of this:  Vs 19 “You are a temple.”  “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.”  In order to do things for God’s glory, in order to experience real life change, you must understand that God made your body as a temple – that means that your body was made for God to inhabit – the Holy Spirit lives in you, and you were made to worship , so you should cultivate worship as part of your daily routine.

The second implication is in verse 19 and 20- “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  In order to truly change, you must recognize who your master and owner is.  Christian, God owns you!  You don’t have rights over your own thoughts, your own time, your own actions; God owns you so that you have a duty to obey him!  So take a moment right now to adjust your motivation so that your only purpose in existence is Jesus.

We want to change, but change is so hard!

Have you ever switched from junk foods to healthful foods and felt sick to your stomach? Or stopped smoking and nearly chewed your fingers off?  Have you cut back on watching television, spending or gambling and noticed how your former compatriots in those activities tried to nudge you back into doing those things?  You need the right kind of motivation to effect real change!

According to the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, motivation is the most significant predictor of success.  Dr. Ericsson found that experts in many walks of life, whether sport, music, chess, dance, or business, had put in the most hours at their craft. He coined the phrase, “It takes 10 years and 10,000 hours to become an expert.”  In other words, the most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others.  Finding the motivation to change means maintaining your efforts consistently when it would be easy to give up.[v]

The most successful people just keep plugging away longer than others. Why is the relationship between motivation and success so robust? Because high motivation will ensure you keep going when everyone else quits.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing.. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

What’s my motivation for wanting to change?  Fear of failure is a good place to start.  Love for God is life changing.  And giving yourself up t to live for Jesus and the glory of God will take you where you need to go.

Change is HardIn closing let me give you the three Ds of motivation:  The first D stands for direction. Before you can change, you must first consider the direction you should go in your life.  In our case the direction is downward to the knees to please God.  The second D represents decision.  Once you know the direction, you must choose to head in that direction.  Choose this day, whom you will serve!  The third D stands for dedication. Once you’ve made your decision, you must dedicate yourself to it.

  • Yes! I want to live my life for the glory of God!  Dear Jesus, I am all yours!

 

[i] http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-our-society-breeds-anxiety-depression-and-dysfunction

[ii] http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

[iii] http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#c3806bb596b2

[v] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201201/personal-growth-motivation-the-drive-change

Just HOW do you know?

Slide3Have you ever heard God’s voice speaking to you?

The Blaze commissioned a poll to ask about any intriguing interactions people have with a higher power. “At least one in 10 people will say God has spoken to them, if you ask them bluntly.” Additionally, the Pew Foundation found that nearly a quarter of Americans say they have been given a direct revelation from God.[i]

And I often hear Christians toss around phrases like “God told me,” or “The Lord spoke to me,” or “God led me.” And I must admit, there are abundant cases where people claim to have heard God speak to them, some from people who are reputable Christians.

For example, there are the widely reported stories of Muslims who claim to have had visions of Jesus. In these visions Jesus speaks to them. After these visions, these Muslims, even fanatical terrorists, even Iman’s, men women and children have been converting to Christ and dedicating their lives to Jesus despite persecution, discrimination and threats of death.[ii] How can you argue with that?

On the other hand, we find that even in Scripture the occurrence of God audibly speaking to individuals is extremely rare. So what are we to think about the voices in our head? Is it God speaking? Is it the devil? Are they just my own thoughts? Or am I crazy?

If you are talking about divine revelation, let’s just settle the issue right now, there is no more Scripture being written. The age of the Apostles and prophets on which the church was founded is past (Ephesians 2:20). In Paul’s day, the Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 13 that soon “prophecies would end,” and they did. The last words of the book of Revelation warn us not to add to Scriptures.

Let me be clear; nothing that you hear today from any living man or woman is equal to the Divine Revelation of Scripture. No new revelation is being given. No new Scriptures are being written. If you hear of a prophecy, discount it. If you hear of a new word from God, avoid it. If you feel God is speaking to you, check that message against God’s Word. God will not show anything to you that contradicts what the Bible says. Divine Revelation is complete. It is finished.

However, and this is an important however, Christianity is built on the concept that the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God. He not only witnesses with our spirit, but he leads us and guides us. At regular intervals, the New Testament tells us that God calls us and that if you hear His voice, you should respond to Him. A person who claims to be a Christian and has not experienced the reality of Jesus dealing with his heart, is a Christian in name only. Our faith is based on the direct interaction of God with the believer.

The difference between divine revelation and the guiding of the Holy Spirit however is significant. None of the guidance that you receive can be called revelation. And every time you think you hear the Spirit speaking, the Bible calls us to test those spirits to see whether or not they are from God. How do you test them? It’s not that difficult, (Isaiah 8:20) “To the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word it is because there is no light in them.”

Our primary topic today is, “how can you have unshakable confidence in God?” The answer is relatively simple: Trust God’s Word. The Objective Basis of our faith is The Word of God. The Bible tells me so. But our secondary topic is, “what about my personal or private revelations?” Our answer to topic #2 is this: see topic #1. If you think you hear his voice it must line up with the Word of God.

An important Reminder 12-15Slide4 - Copy

Be established in the truth

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

After reading this, it sounds like Peter had a drum that he kept on beating. If you were in Peter’s church, you might have heard this question, “What’s Peter preaching on today?” The same thing he preached yesterday! “And what is he going to preach on tomorrow?” The same thing he preached yesterday. He just kept coming back to the same old topic.

In verse 12

He promised to remind us of it always

He noted that we presently were established in it

In verse 13

He promised to remind us of it as long as he lived

Verse 15

Even after he died, he wanted to leave a reminder of it!

new-1So what was this important reminder? It is fairly simple: That they would be established in The Truth! He didn’t want them chasing some new teaching or new revelation or new fangled seminar, the drum Peter beat over and over and over again was this: Be established in the truth. Hold up the truth and the truth will hold you up! God’s Word is Truth! Trust it!

How do you find unshakable, rock solid faith? The Truth? But we might ask Peter, “How to you know that it is the truth? On what do you base it? Peter’s answer: I’ve seen it for myself.

An eyewitness account 16-18Slide6 - Copy

Not a fable or a myth

16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

Just HOW can we trust that the Bible is true? How can we trust that what the Gospels said about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are really accurate? There have been many people over the centuries who raised these same questions.

Mark Twain once said, “The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals… and upwards of a thousand lies.”

More recently Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion stated, “much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries”

Peter recognized that attacks would come. So he affirmed in verse 16, “we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Myths are fables or fairy stories dreamed up by people to illustrate life or spiritual ideals. Peter was surrounded by the ancient religions of the Romans, Greeks, Persians and Egyptians who concocted all sorts of myths about the exploits of their gods.

new-2Peter makes it perfectly clear that the records the Apostles kept about Jesus birth, life and death were not myth. How could he make that claim? Because Peter himself, and the other Apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Peter was there when Jesus healed the blind man, walked on water, calmed the sea and raised the dead. And Peter was there when Jesus was transfigured before him, and Peter saw a man who was more than a mere man, He was God in all his glory! And Peter heard the Father’s audible voice from the mountain say, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!”

Peter’s point is this: Moses received the commandments from God the Father, face to face on Mount Sinai. And the Apostles also received divine revelation from God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration! If indeed the New Testament records of Jesus are what they say they are, the inspirited word of God, what does that mean for us?

A Divine confirmation 19-21Slide8

19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

How do you know for sure that you can trust God’s word? We have a powerful, divine, prophetic confirmation of the truth. The word “confirmed” comes from a Greek word root “βάσις basis,” from which we get our word basis, meaning “the underling foundation or support for an idea or truth, the justification or reasoning behind something.”

Just what is the basis of our faith? There are two parts to it. #1 The Old Testament Prophetic Word was recorded. #2 the New Testament fulfillment was observed by eyewitnesses. It is a simple matter to research the many prophecies about Jesus; there are over three hundred of them, each written a thousand years or more in advance. It is also a simple matter to check out the historical documents of the New Testament to see how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.

So powerful is the idea of fulfilled prophecy to the security of our faith that Peter tells us; once you discover the truth, you would do well to heed it. It is like a bright lamp post driven into the shifting sands of the Middle east that is still shining brightly today. One thing about Christianity; we want you to check out the claims of Christ. We want you to see for yourself that they are true!

This is not a private truth

In our day of relativism, where people all over the world are claiming that their truth is a private matter, where they say things like; “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” Listen, truth is not a private matter. If it is true, it is true for all. It is impossible that two opposite ideas could both be true! If there is truth, it is universal.

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. This means that the Word of God can never mean what it has never meant. If you have a private pet interpretation of a passage, and you are the only one to hold it, chances are, you are wrong. The Word of God has an objective, and universal meaning. That is what we should seek.

new-3The rest of this verse tells us that this also means that no prophet has ever shared his own private prophecy. All true prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit. The Prophets were godly men, expressly chosen for a peculiar work, to write the inspirited, inerrant Word of God! That is why we believe that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts, and has complete authority about every subject recorded in it. God’s Word is Truth!

Just how do you know for sure? Simple, the truth of God’s word came from holy men, moved by the Holy Spirit, confirmed by fulfilled prophecy and that is how we know.

Now I want to close this message by warning you about the “jumping Scripture method” of interpretation. Some people read the Bible, waiting for a verse to Jump out at them and give them guidance. Let me give you an example. A married, church attending woman was also dating another man who also attended her church, and she was in a quandary. She was trying to figure out who to go with. So she prayed about it and, like a faithful Christian began to search the Scriptures. But she didn’t go any place as mundane as Exodus 20, which contains the 10 commandments, (Do not commit adultery) no she read somewhere else hoping for a scripture to jump out at her and give her guidance. Then she ran across Ephesians 4:24 which did just that; it reads, “Put on the NEW man!” And she did. Is that what the verse means? No.

Another man was caught in the same quandary. He had to choose between his wife and his lover. He was reading 1 Corinthians 1:3 which read “Grace to you!” Guess what his girlfriends name was? You guessed it.

Remember, a verse can never mean what it has never meant. If you want to know how to avoid the jumping Scripture method, in order to understand the meaning of a verse, never just read a verse; read an entire paragraph, chapter or book. For no Scripture is of any private interpretation. God will never lead you in a way that is contrary to the plain and simple truth revealed in His Word. If He’s speaking to you, His Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.

[i] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/16/has-god-ever-spoken-to-you-directly-theblaze-wants-to-know-about-your-most-intensely-religious-experiences/

[ii] http://www1.cbn.com/onlinediscipleship/visions-of-jesus-stir-muslim-hearts

Be Sure

slide1Do you know for sure if you are “saved?” (A Christian, a believer, a child of God, born again?)

“If you believe that you are saved, How do you know?” On what do you base your faith?

Wouldn’t you definitively like to know?

The answer that I am going to give today is not the answer I usually give. I usually ask people if they believe in Jesus (acts 16:31). Have you trusted Christ as Savior (Ephesians 1:13)? Have you repented (Acts 26:20)? Have you heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit confirming your salvation (Romans 8:16)?

And certainly those are good answers. I can even give you Bible verses backing up each one. But these are, sort of, answers for babies or shall we say, the basics for beginners. After you have been a believer for a little while, every one of you should be familiar with these simple, yet profound ways of gaining assurance. You should know those simple answers. They are what give you confidence.

But there comes a time in your Christian life when we must give you more than just simple answers. Today we are going to go a little deeper, and we are going to help you analyze your relationship with Jesus… and my hope is that you will come to a deeper level of passion, purpose and blessed assurance by the time we are done.

But I must warn you that this message may also be a little unsettling to some of you. Up until now you may have been content to sit in your pew, resting on your Blessed Assurance, but it is possible that I’m going to shake your complacent little world. So hang on to something, the meddling is about to begin.

There are certain steps every Christian must be willing to take to make their election sure. In fact, It is urgent that you take the steps to gain the assurance that you are truly a child of God. If you don’t settle this once and for all, you will always have nagging doubts about your salvation. I am going to give you four tests today which will be extremely revealing, for it will tell you if you truly have new life in Christ.

I want you to remember this one thing throughout our study; Salvation is always by Grace, it is a free gift. …but there are some tests we can perform to see whether or not you have that new life, and that takes a little work and intense self-examination on your part.

When you look at the world around you, how do you know if something is living or non-living? Science has several tests they have developed that give them the answer. #1 Animation – does it move? All living things move in some way. #2 Does it breathe? If it has no reparation it’s not living. #3 Does it grow? All living things grow. #4 Does it reproduce. #5 Does it respond. Is it able to detect what’s going on around it and respond to its environment. #6 does it feed. #7 does it get rid of waste. These are tests of life. They don’t make things living, they just tell us if they are living.

Do you want to know if you are alive in Christ? Take the test. Here are four things that will tell you the answer:

  1. Urgency.slide2

5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith.

Am I diligent and serious about my relationship with Jesus? This has to do with the level of my interest in spiritual things. If you are one of those people who just doesn’t really think that this is a big deal, then, I hate to break it to you, for you, this is a really big deal. If you don’t give much thought to Jesus, or put much effort into spiritual things, it may be because you are spiritually dead. The dead don’t care, the living always care.

In the language of Peter’s day, the Greek word σπουδή spoude means to have a diligence, haste, an earnest care, and carefulness about it. It is about urgency! This concept is repeated and expanded in verse 10

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure”

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Verse five is telling us to press the gas pedal. Verse ten is telling us to floor it! If you’re driving on I-5, you’ll want to give it some gas. But if you are planning to pass a log truck on Hwy 38, you’ll want to floor it. This is the height of urgency. It is absolutely essential that you put the same urgency into your faith that you do into that gas pedal.

This is very interesting that Peter uses the words “call and election.” When I originally asked you if you were saved, we talked about the human side of salvation; You need to trust Jesus, you need to believe, you need to repent, you need faith… But Peter expresses the divine side of salvation; God calls us! God elects us! We need both the human side and the divine side working in concert for Salvation.

But what Peter is saying is this: It’s not enough to say you believe, it’s not enough to tell yourself you have faith, it’s not even enough to claim repentance… the question is this, are you one of the called, are you one of the elect? In an objective sense, has God truly saved you? That’s what we want to know today. It is urgent that you find out. Do you have a sense of urgency and diligence to discover it?

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Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

Here is the second test: Am I growing more Christ like in my character?

All living things grow, or they are not alive. I want you to notice what is conspicuously absent from this list. What Peter does not say is this; add to your faith church attendance, and to your attendance, Sunday School, and to your Sunday School, Growth Groups, and to your Growth Groups, Worship Team, and to the Worship Team, teaching, and to your teaching, visitation. I wish he’d said it! We measure things that way. But remember, my dog can do all those things, and he will still just be a lousy, unspiritual dog!

Of course we want you to do those things, but it is absolutely critical that you develop your character in Christ! Let me put it this way, if you are not growing, you’re dead. Only living things grow! If you are alive in Christ, you will grow! Let’s review these one at a time:

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Faith: This is where the Christian begins, by placing his faith in Jesus for eternal life. But this is never where the Christian ends. If all you want is a fire escape from Hell, you’ve come to the wrong place. Jesus wants to be Lord of your life.

Virtue or Moral excellence; ἀρέτη arête is the desire to live purely. Do you have that desire? Pursue it diligently.

Knowledge; γνῶσις gnosis is speaking of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It is more time and more love for Jesus in prayer and in the Word.

Self control; ἐγκράτεια egkrateia is a word that means saying know to the passions of the flesh. We must never let anything master us but Jesus.

Perseverance; ὑπομονή hupomone is the characteristic of a believer who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to Jesus by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

Brotherly love; philadelphia fil-ad-el-fee’-ah refers to the care we have for our church family. It means we love each other as if we were family.

Love; ἀγάπη agape which is not just love for our brothers, but the highest form of sacrificial love that makes us willing to be devoted to God and one in other unconditionally.

These are the changes we are looking for in your character. Have you seen growth in any of these seven ways? Good! You’re growing! If you find yourself virtually unchanged and stymied in your growth in the last five years, it should make you diligently seek to make your calling and elections sure. There can be no assurance without growth.

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8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Here is the test. Am I seeing these changes in my life or am I completely lacking in motivation? There is a contrast in these two verses. Verse 8 is the motivated Believer who is neither barren or unfruitful, and Verse 9 is the shortsighted and blind churchgoer who is unmotivated and apathetic. Verse 8 is talking about an abundance, verse 9 is talking about a deficiency.

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A person who is motivated to seek Jesus will neither be barren nor unfruitful. Interestingly the word barren ἀργός argos can also mean lazy, slothful, unwilling to work. The opposite of barren is lively, energetic, growing. The opposite of unfruitful is fruit bearing. You have heard of the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, self control. That’s in Galatians 5. This list of fruit; virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, brotherly kindness and love could be known as the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have faith in Jesus, true faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ will always motivate you to maturity.

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10 …if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here is our final test question; Am I doing these things or am I stumbling. Here is the key; as far as actions go, you can either do things for Jesus, or you can stumble through life. It is difficult to do both at the same time, though I’ve been known to do it a time or two. You are either expressing purity, self control, patience and love or you are stumbling! Do you want to stop stumbling as a way of life? Start living for Jesus as a way of life!

The sobering thought of verse 11 is that every believer gets to walk through the entrance into the everlasting kingdom, but some will have an abundant entrance supplied to them! Some you are happy just to slip through the pearly gates unnoticed; “whew, I made it.” Peter suggests that others will get a fanfare, a ticker tape parade, while the band plays on. And who doesn’t want to hear the words, “well done, you good and faithful servant, enter into the presence of your Lord with joy!”

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If you want to assurance of faith, I suggest that you take action, take this list home and begin to work on the Fruit of faith, one at a time. Be a doer of the Word, not a hearer only. Are you really living? Are you really alive? Are you living the abundant life? Here are four characteristics of a Christian who is really living. 1. He’s serious. There is an urgency to his faith. 2. He’s growing, he is making changes in his character. 3. He’s motivated. He wants to be a fruit bearing Christian. 4. He takes action. He does the things that need to be done to produce the life that he’s always wanted.

Those are four characteristics of a person with eternal life. You want assurance? Believe of course, because the only way a person is saved is through faith, but don’t stop there; prove to yourself and everyone else around you that you truly have new life in Christ. Grace Works, no doubt about it. And that will make you sure of your salvation.

I Promise You

When was the last time someone made a promise to you… and broke it?

slide3“Yes, honey, I’ll take out the trash after dinner.”

“I promise we’ll give you a promotion in six months.”

“I’ll be there. I promise.”

If you are like most people, you make commitments to others all the time. Question is – how often do you keep your promises? When you don’t keep a promise, even a small one, it communicates to that person that you don’t really give a rip about them and that they cannot count on you. A promise is a promise after all.

When someone else breaks a promise to you, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated? You wonder whether you can ever trust that person again. When you break a promise it can damage a relationship or your reputation. Tiny fissures develop in your relationships marked by broken promises.

Scripture is clear on the importance of keeping promises. “If a man . . . takes an oath to bind himself . . . he shall not violate his word” (Numbers 30:2). King Solomon wrote, “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).

If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make it. If you can’t deliver on something because of an uncontrollable event, such as an illness or accident, most people will understand. On the other hand, breaking a promise due to laziness, lack of planning or doing so intentionally is different.

So what happens when God makes a promise? This is a no brainer; when God makes a promise, he will always come through. The Bible is full of promises. The word promise appears 111 times in the Bible. One person suggested that there are 3573 promises in the Bible. Another Bible student, a school teacher named Everet Storms, came up with 7487 promises. Bible Scholar, Herbert Lockyer wrote a book called “all the promises of the bible” and listed some 8000 of them.

I don’t know how many promises there really are in the Bible… but you can bet one thing. God always fulfills all his promises. Count on it! Depend on it. Believe it! That is really what Peter is saying in these verses. God has some very precious promises, and one of the most important is that He will carry you though. Listen to just a few of his promises:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said it, and will He not do it? has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Joshua 21:45 Not one of the good promises which the LORD made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

2 Cor 1:20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”

With God’s promises on your side, things are good! Let’s examine one of God’s precious promises deeply so that we come away encouraged. The first thing we should ask is, “to whom were these promises made? Did God promise me?”

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

This is

slide4A Promise to those with like precious faith

Peter wrote this book. He called himself a servant and an apostle. He had the highest rank in the church, and yet, following the example of Jesus, he took the most lowly position. Apostle and servant.

In one of the clearest statements in the New Testament, Peter calls Jesus both “God and Savior.” You might want to underline it. Jesus IS God. As Christians we believe in what is called the Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Three persons; one God.

In verse two, Peter writes a common greeting to believers; Grace and peace be multiplied to you. We have noted before that Grace is the common Greek way of saying “hi” and “bye,” (charis or charin), while Peace is the common Hebrew way of saying “hi” and “bye,” (Shalom.)

But what I really want us to see today are the recipients of this letter. Verse one; “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

How do you obtain this “like precious faith.” The first thing we need to understand is that the like precious faith in this verse is a noun, not a verb. What is the difference, if I have faith in Jesus – that’s a verb. Faith is an action that I take; I believe. However If I say that all of us in this room subscribe to “the faith,” that’s a noun. In this case, faith is the sum and substance of what we believe.

Peter is writing to a group of people who have subscribed to the truth that Jesus is our God and Savior and that his death on the cross made us right with God. Sometimes we urge people to have faith, and forget that faith must be in something! It must have an object. We don’t just have faith in faith! We don’t just have faith in a generic god, or whatever you choose to believe in. If you want the precious promises in this book, you need to have faith in THE faith!

3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

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Like precious Faith in Jesus ignites God’s divine power that will transform your life!

So how powerful is God? Business insider claims that hypernovas are the most powerful thing in the universe. A hypernova occurred in 2008 when a star, 150 times the size of our sun exploded producing the brightest light and most powerful energy release in the universe. In 23 seconds it put out more energy than our Sun will ever produce in its entire lifetime, or about the same amount of energy in 10 trillion trillion billion megaton bombs! If your home planet is in the way, say hello to a complete mass extinction. Scientist worry that events like these could be sterilizing the universe.[i]

That explosion didn’t even make God flinch. It didn’t surprise him, and didn’t affect Him. And as powerful as it was, it isn’t nearly as powerful as the God who created the entire universe.

So read the verse again; God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Just in case you are in depression, God has enough power to conquer it. And if you are struggling, it’s nothing for God to strengthen you. And if you despair of ever being able to live a life of godliness, peace and joy, just remember this, Jesus has enough power to give you the life you have always wanted to live and to give it more abundantly, and that with so much divine power to spare that it is beyond all that you could ask or think! Just so you know.

And how do you get this power? “Through the knowledge of him who called you!” How does knowing him give you that power?

Let’s just say you are writing a book. And you’d like to get the endorsement of Billy Graham. Can you imagine the power you would have to sell books you’d have if Graham endorsed your book? But the problem is, you don’t know Billy Graham. And it is unlikely he’s going to endorse your book. But can you imagine what would happen if you did know him and he knew and loved you? You could sit next to him and say, “Dr. Graham, would you do me a favor? Would you endorse my book!”

That is like the power you have when you know Jesus. “Jesus, would you give me everything that pertains to life and godliness!” Done! The more you know him, the more power you can claim. Faith unites the weak believer to the Mighty Savior! What a precious promise.

4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

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We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises. that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.

I want to show you a couple of parallels in these verses. Here is our first one: Our like Precious Faith, in verse 1 – obtained through Jesus, grants us exceedingly Precious promises in verse 4 given by Jesus. If you have the precious faith, you get the precious promises! Nice? Huh?

Here is our second one. His divine power in verse 2 makes us partakers of his divine nature in verse 5. If you have his divine power, you partake of his divine nature! Incredible!

This is an exceedingly precious promise. Verse five tells us that we were sinners at birth. The corruption that is destroying the earth was destroying us. We were born with a sin nature, and because of that nature, we hated and lusted and bent toward pleasing self (Romans 5:12; 7:14). No matter how hard we may try to do good, our motivations and underlying desires are to please and promote self. That sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God, keeps us in bondage to sin, and leads eventually to spiritual death (Romans 6:16, 23; 7:14; 2 Peter 2:19). We cannot free ourselves from sin because we cannot change our own natures, just as a tiger cannot change its own stripes.

When we come to Christ in faith, accepting His death and resurrection as our substitute, we declare Him to be the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:8–9). At that moment, the Holy Spirit “births” us into the family of God. Our old nature is defeated, and we receive a new, divine nature that desires the things of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). When Christ died for us, He became our sin, so that when we come to Him in faith, we gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is a divine exchange: Where once you had nothing but a sin nature, you now have a divine nature! God’s Holy Spirit in you is the way of escape from this planet of corruption!

You can be pure! How? The closer you draw to the Savior, the deeper your relationship with Jesus, the more you know the Father, the further you will escape from all that corrupts you! This is your promise for today, and for life! Claim it! Believe it! Trust in your Savior God and spend serious time every day with Jesus. He will give you life and give it more abundantly!

That’s what Jesus said. “I promise you!” Trust Him.

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[i] http://www.businessinsider.com/hypernovas-are-the-most-powerful-thing-in-the-universe-2014-9

Staying Power to Weather the Storm

slide3What can shake your faith?

During terrible trials of seemingly unanswered prayer and unrelenting pain, many are shaken to the core. It could be the loss of a loved one, a financial disaster, a relationship break-up, or a job loss. This can become so severe that we wonder if we’ve been betrayed by God himself. This may lead to a crisis of faith.

What constitutes a crisis of faith? It is when we come to a pivotal point in our Christian life when events cause us to believe that we are losing faith. It is a time of intense doubt and internal conflict that takes place when you reach a dead end, then think you simply have no faith in your faith.

In preparation for this message I read several difficult first hand stories of folks who’s faith was shaken or shattered. There seemed to be several themes in these stories.

The first is that they felt let down or disillusioned by God. One man asked, “where was God?” God is supposed to love me, and protect me, and keep me from harm.” [i]

A second theme also developed. It had to do with the hypocrisy of the church. One man said, “I started noticing how few places of true honesty and relational vulnerability were available in church. After a significantly painful experience as part of a church staff, what began as a small rumble of doubts and questions intensified and became a huge landslide.”[ii]

A third theme has to do with the truths taught in the Word of God. More and more, people are making comments like this one, “I grew up in a rigid faith system with a long list of doctrinal statements, dos, don’ts, and tenets I needed to believe to belong. Over the years I began to notice a shift in my heart related to church and God. What once seemed certain and clear became fuzzy. I had new reservations about the inerrancy of the scriptures, and began questioning what I had been taught about hell and homosexuality. I began to doubt much of what I had been trained as a Christian to never question.”

Is your faith unshakable? Jesus asked it this way, “Will the Son of man find faith on the earth when he comes?” When the floods break upon your bright shore, where will you find staying power to weather the storm? Is there a way you can prepare for the onslaught? Is there an unshakable faith that will carry you through? The answer? 2 Peter. You need the divine power and precious promises of God’s Word so that you can ride out the tempest.

The book of 2 Peter addresses three big issues that often shake our faith. #1 – What if I stumble? How to live the pure life. (chapter 1) #2 What if I’m confused and don’t know what I believe? How to stay true. (chapter 2) #3 What if I’m a doubter? How to maintain your faith. (chapter 3). Each chapter answers a Question, gives a Warning, and leaves us with a Promise.

slide4What if I Stumble?

Chapter one of second Peter is for everyone who thinks that they just don’t measure up. Some of you are struggling with godliness. You are not doing very good at it. If people know the evil in your heart, they would give you the stare. You know that you are an ineffective Christian and you are unproductive for Jesus. You may fool others, but when you are by yourself, you know the truth.

WARNING: Here is the chapter 1 warning.   It is found in verse 10. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure.” In other words, if you find it impossible to live the Christian life, there is always the possibility that you are not a child of God. If this is true, you need a crisis of faith, so that you can fully embrace Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This is a stern warning.

PROMISE: But chapter one also has a powerful promise in verse 3-4

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Let me let you in on a secret; we all struggle; every one of us. Even Peter and Paul had their struggles and failures. It is not about perfection it’s about direction. It isn’t about rules as much as it is about a relationship with Jesus. The very fact that you struggle with your shortcomings is a wonderful indication that the Holy Spirit is dealing with you. And this is the promise he has for you:

“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That is an exceedingly precious promise. And it turns out, that if you are struggling, what you really need is to cling to the promises of God. By claiming God’s promises, clinging to His word, and growing in Christ like character, you too can live a pure life.

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Chapter 2 of 2 Peter is for everyone who is confused about what and who to believe. There are so many wonderful teachers on television and radio… and then one day someone tells you that the preacher you admire believes some outrageous, destructive heresy! And it sends you into a tail spin. What if you have been wrong all along about what you believe? How do you know if you are right or not?

WARNING: Here is the chapter 2 warning.   It is found in verses 1-2

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways.”

While chapter one is about being pure, chapter 2 is about being true. Let me tell you the thing that makes being true to God’s Word so difficult; There are so many who stray. Many follow their destructive ways. And there is often a price to pay for being true. So that is what leads up to the promise God has for you if you stay true to His Word:

PROMISE: Verse 9 “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” Just like He delivered Noah and Lot, so He’ll carry you through.

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Chapter 2 of 2 Peter is for everyone who has doubts. And the doubt that we are talking about specifically is about the Lord’s soon return. That doubt is expressed in verse 3: “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

WARNING: 10-11

“the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”

Chapter one is about being PURE. Chapter two is about being TRUE. Chapter three is about being SURE. Do you want to be settled and sure in the faith and belief that Jesus is coming soon? Just watch Israel. They have reestablished the Sanhedrin. They have the temple ready for construction. They have appointed a high priest for the first time in 2000 years. They are once again practicing and learning how to do the Old Testament Sacrifices. They have called on Russia and the US to rebuild the Temple.

IN 2012 Putin visited the Wailing Wall. The Russian leader stood in silence for several minutes, offering up a personal prayer. An Israeli bystander called out in Russian, “Welcome, President Putin.” and explained the importance of the Temple Mount and the Jewish Temple. Putin supposedly responded, “That’s exactly the reason I came here – to pray for the Temple to be built again.”[iii] I don’t know what Putin will do, but I do know about the promises of God.

PROMISE: 13, “Nevertheless, according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Is your faith unshakable? Perhaps you have stumbled into sin and need to make your election sure. Maybe you are confused or deceived and need Jesus to rescue you. Or it could be that you have doubts about Jesus coming and need to claim the promises of God.

Let me tell you WHAT’S TRUE; If Jesus has saved you, he’ll carry you through. Let me tell you WHAT’S FALSE; if what you are listening to doesn’t line up with God’s Word, you need a solid foundation of truth. Let me tell you about THE END; Jesus is coming again soon. Are you ready for Him? If not, you need Staying Power to Weather the Storm. You need Unshakable faith you can rest your life upon!

Everybody experiences stress and anxiety on a daily basis. When stress and feelings of worry or anxiety build up to an impenetrable level in the form of a crisis of faith, you need Jesus more than ever.

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jessie-golem/leaving-the-church_b_4816252.html

[ii] https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2014/10/21/4-reasons-its-okay-to-lose-your-faith/34651

[iii] Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/78372/bin-exclusive-sanhedrin-asks-putin-trump-build-third-temple-jerusalem/#4cpkVIwUWegp5a8V.99

How Hope makes us love one another

Slide18An evangelist once preached a message on holiness.  After hearing it, the pastor said something to him that rattled his cage. “The Lord has dealt with me about preaching more on love than holiness,” The statement didn’t sit well with the evangelist.  He pondered,  “Is love more important than holiness?”

One of the main reasons why the church is in such a mess today is because we have managed to uncouple the love of God from the holiness of God.  Some churches have veered too far toward what they say is holiness, while other churches have veered too far toward what they say is love. If a church has abandoned holiness, it has abandoned love, and if it has abandoned love, it has abandoned holiness.

Modern Western Christians have regrettably managed to convince themselves that God’s love can be celebrated, promoted and extolled, while we can simply ignore or downplay his holiness. But of course this just cannot be done.  There is no such thing as holiness apart from love, and no such thing as love apart from holiness. God’s love is holy love.  God’s holiness is loving holiness.  They cannot be divided.

God is Holy. That means that He has an infinite aversion to sin, and all that is false. He utterly hates rebellion, unbelief, immorality, and all forms of sin. He will and must destroy all forms of iniquity forever. His very nature demands it.

In Isaiah 6:1-8, we see Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple. He sees the Lord “sitting on a throne lofty and exalted” (vs. 1). Seraphim surround Him calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (vs. 3). This triple repetition of a divine attribute is without parallel in the rest of the Bible. Scripture never says that God is “justice, justice, justice” or even “love, love, love,” but it does say that He is “holy, holy, holy.” The Hebrew does not have a grammatical way to express the comparative (holier) or the superlative (holiest). The way it stresses the importance of something is by repetition.

Yet, God is love. He abounds with compassion and mercy for sinners. The nature of God is to be gracious, forgiving, forbearing. As a Father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him, says Psalm 103. He is “slow to anger, and abounding with tender mercies…” According to Exodus 34:4-8.  While the Bible says that God is “holy, holy, holy,” and you can’t get any higher that, it also says, that without His love you are nothing.

God knew all about the holiness / love debate long before it happened.  In fact, in 1 Peter 1, this passage was penned specifically to say that Hope leads to holiness, and holiness leads to love.

Slide3Holiness makes us love one another 22

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

Did you notice that this verse began with purity of soul and ended with a pure heart? You start with purity, you add love in the middle, and you end with purity.  What makes sincere love of the brethren possible?  Let me give you an interesting answer:  a pure heart.  How do you get a pure heart?  By obedience to the truth.

Here is the secret of loving one another:  A Christian doesn’t follow his inner urges, or allow personal feelings or prejudices to get in the way of love… we obey the truth.  This excludes all pride, grudges, and bitterness.  It means getting rid of it, and cleansing those things that get in the way of true love.  That’s why love demands holiness!  You just can’t love well without purity!

This verse is what I’m going to call a “double, double.”  There are two mentions of purity, one at the beginning and one at the end, and there are two mentions of love, both of them sandwiched in the middle; “Sincere love of the brethren,” and “fervent love one for another.”

At firSlide4st glance, you might thing that Peter is just repeating himself.  But upon closer inspection you will notice that the “sincere love of the brethren,” is the Greek word philos, meaning brotherly love.  And the “fervent love one for another,” is agape, a term used of God’s unselfish, unconditional love.

So what’s Peter trying to communicate?  Perhaps it is this:  no matter the kind of love you are talking about, whether it is the comradery of brotherly love, or the compassion for the unlovely of God-like love, all genuine love comes from holiness, and all genuine love comes from God.

Do you want to love well, you need to be holy.  Do you sincerely want sincere love?  Do you fervently desire fervent love?  If you want your love to be genuine and passionate, you must begin with purity.  If you take love to any other place it becomes warped and selfish.

Slide5The Gospel makes us love one another 23-25

23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,  24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

I think you have to ask the question, as I did, why did Peter suddenly turn from purity and love to the new birth?  What is the connection?  “Love purely, having been born again!”

Here is the connection; Selfless love does not come naturally.  Love and romance on the human level are about as dependable as tumbleweeds in the wind, as durable as green grass on a hot summer day, as lasting as a beautiful flower that wilts away.  That’s human love, for you.  Our old nature kicks in with all kinds of excuses:

  • I can’t love someone who acts like that!
  • I don’t have the patience!
  • I’m too busy!  I haven’t got time for this!
  • I tried loving them, but they don’t love me back!

That is where the Gospel comes in.  We can love like God loves, because we have been regenerated.  Regenerated is just a big word meaning “born again!”  We have the capacity to have divine love because God is our father, and we are all brothers and sisters!  We have a new family and a new nature.

This is the gospel that was preached unto you.  We are different.  We’ve been born again.  Our love needs to reflect that reality.  Our love is meant to be as incorruptible as Jesus love and as enduring and eternal as the Word of God itself.  It is supposed to be the forever and ever and happily ever after kind of love.

Slide6Brothers and Sisters!  We need to love one another! 2:1-3

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

So you want to love like God loves?  That is what we are supposed to do.  How about five practical ways to put that into practice, one sure route to sustaining love, and one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover.

Five practical steps to pure live:

  1. Lay aside all malice: This is a malicious spirit.  Stop wishing ill will on others.  Stop trying to hurtSlide7 those who hurt you.  The Greek word “Kakia,” even sounds disgusting.  True love does not seek revenge.
  2. Set aside all deceit:  The Greek word “dolos” means treachery, trickery, lying, being disingenuous and being two faced.  True love does not deceive.
  3. Put aside all hypocrisy:  Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing on the outside, but is another thing deep inside.  You can fool some of the people, but God knows if you are being two faced.  True love must be genuine.
  4. Get rid of all envy:  Envy or jealousy is resentment for what others have and the desire to have what does not belong to you.  Be content and joyful with the gifts and abilities God has given you.  You cannot truly love until you are content.
  5. Stop all evil speaking:  Evil speaking refers to speaking ill of one another, of slander, of rumors and gossip.  You can say that you are a loving person all you want, but true love speaks well of others.

One sure route to sustaining love:

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow by it.”  If you are going to learn to love others, you have got to learn to love God’s Word first.  If you desire to be a lover, you must desire the simple truths of time spent with the greatest lover of all; the living Word, Jesus.  There is no shortcut nor substitute for daily time spent with the Lord Jesus Christ in His word.  It is the only way you are going to grow in love.

one simple test to let you know if you are a genuine lover

3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  Here’s what I know; if you are a true believer, you will have a insatiable appetite for the Word, just like a baby has a hunger for mama’s milk.  Once you have truly tasted Jesus, and are a saved individual, you can’t help yourself, you will have a voracious craving for more.  Jesus tastes so good; you can’t take just one bite!

O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in him!

How HOPE makes you HOLY

Slide18If you’re motivated, you can do amazing things.

What would motivate a person to get out of bed in the middle of the night and read with avid interest, a boring, technical book when he should be sleeping? Every parent of a sick child who has read a medical handbook for baby at 3 a.m. knows the answer!

What would motivate a person to go sit out in an icy wind for two hours on a Saturday morning when there are other pressing things to do? Every loving parent who is a soccer mom or dad has done that very thing. Something motivated them to do what would normally be unnatural.

What would make a college student stay up all night banging away at his computer? Surely his body is crying out for sleep! Surely he’s not so intrigued by his subject that he just can’t quit! He’s motivated by a professor who said, “The term paper will count for 25 percent of your grade. No late work will be accepted. No exceptions!”

So here’s a question: Why don’t we read our Bibles with the consistency and fervency of a college student? Why don’t we pray with the tenacity of an athlete? Why don’t we strive to be holy people in every area of life? Why do our hearts grow lax toward the things of God?

The answer is that, we lack proper motivation. If we can kindle the right motivation, we will be fervent in spirit and all-out for the Lord.

Today we are going to look at the motivation for holiness: Hope makes us holy. In the first section of this chapter, Peter emphasized walking in hope, but now his emphasis is walking in holiness. The question of the first section was, “How can I smile while suffering?” the question in the next is, “How can I live a pure life in a corrupt society?”

One powerful answer is that “hope makes holy.” Holiness and hope go together like peanut butter and jelly, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, like abbot and Costello, like ice cream and chocolate syrup. But more to the point, hope makes us yearn for holiness like the smell of thanksgiving dinner to a hungry man, like a shining oasis to a parched Bedouin, like a hot fire on the hearth when it’s 10 below zero outside, like a twenty dollar bill when you are flat broke.

Hope motivates us to be holy when it captivates our mind. Those who hope and dream of the soon coming of the Lord are highly motivated to live for Jesus. His coming is alive and vivid to their soul. Those who spend little time pondering the Christian hope of the future have little motivation to be holy. Much hope, much holiness; little hope, little holiness. Cause and effect.

Listen to what Peter said in verse 13: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Now listen to what the Apostle John said in his letter; “every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as Jesus is pure” (1 John 3:3). It sounds like Peter and John hung around together, doesn’t it?

Slide3Hope captures the mind – 13

“Gird up the loins of your mind” simply means, “Pull your thoughts together! Keep your mind on Jesus return!” The image of girding up the loins is a little old fashioned. It is Bible time man wearing a robe who needs to run free, so he can be seen tucking his rub up under the belt, so that it won’t trip him up. When you center your thoughts on the return of Christ, you escape the many worldly things that would trap your mind.

Not only should we have a disciplined mind, but we should also have a sober mind. The word sober means “to be calm, steady, controlled; to weigh matters.” Unfortunately some people get worried by prophetic studies and start looking at tribulation rather than Jesus return. The fact that Christ is coming should encourage us to be calm and collected.

The most passionate, stable people I know are the people who are spellbound by Jesus coming. Hope makes them holy. This is why I begin virtually every morning by saying, “Lord, I set apart my mind for You today. I set apart my passion, my eyes, my ears, my lips. I set apart my motivations, my attitudes, my disciplines. I set apart all these things to You.” This kind of simple reminder has kept me moving toward that goal of holiness Peter mentions in 1 Peter 1:15-16. I would urge you to do the same.

Hope delivers from ignorant sin – 14Slide4

“as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”

The argument here is logical and simple. Some people are ignorant of their sin. They think that there is nothing wrong with how they are living. In fact they flaunt it. Sinful ignorance that leads to foolish indulgence. Unsaved people lack spiritual intelligence, and this causes them to justify their sin.

But hope awakens obedience in us, because when we believe, we awaken as a child of God. Children inherit the nature of their parents. A lamb will naturally grow up acting like a sheep. It’s in his nature. And a piglet will wallow like all other pigs. We are children of God! If you have this hope in you, will live a holy life. God is holy; therefore, as His children, we should live holy lives.

Peter reminded his readers that they had also been imitators of the world, “conforming themselves” to the standards and pleasures of the world. Romans 12:2 translates this same word as do not be “conformed to this world.”

Slide5Hope imitates a Holy God -15

15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s holiness is an essential part of His nature. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Any holiness that we have come from God.

What does it mean for Christians to be “holy”? Ask around and you’ll get a host of answers, most of them erroneous. The term, in its basic sense, means to be set apart, separated for a special, unique purpose. This is why marriage is sometimes called “holy matrimony.” A husband and wife separate from their former family commitments as they commit themselves to each other in a unique and intimate relationship. We also call the Bible “Holy Scripture” because these writings, are set apart from the common writings of the world.

The words “holy,” “holiness,” “saint” and “sanctify” come from a Greek root meaning, “to set apart to God.” The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is set apart for God by the Holy Spirit, with the obligation of living a holy life (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

A holy person is not an odd person, but a different person. His life has a quality about it that is different. His present “lifestyle” is not only different from his past way of life, but it is different from the “lifestyles” of the unbelievers around him. It involves separation from that which is unclean and complete devotion to God (2 Cor. 6:14—7:1). We are to be holy “in all our behavior,” so that everything we do reflects the holiness of God.

To a believer, there is no such thing as “secular” and “sacred.” All of life is holy as we live to glorify God. Even such ordinary activities as eating and drinking can be done to the glory of God (i Cor. 10:31). If something cannot be done to the glory of God, it should not be done at all!

Slide6Hope results in reverence – 17

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (reverence)

Most people are motivated by appreciation and love. Hope is the highest form of motivation. If you are going to use fear as a motivator, use it sparingly, and when you give a warning, make sure you carry it out, or negative motivation loses its effect.

God also uses negative motivation. “The Father, without partiality judges according to each one’s work.” If I can get you to think deeply about the judgment of God on sinners, you are sure to turn your life over to Jesus. Who wants to eternal judgment?

But this verse is not just about the eternal judgment on unbelievers; this is about the judgment of Christians. Let me paraphrase verse 17. “If you are going to call yourself a Christian, conduct yourself like one, reverently, for God is watching and is going to judge everyone impartially, not just by what comes out of their mouth, but by how they live!”

Now there is no question that the believer’s judgment is different than the unbeliever. The non-Christian receives the sentence of eternal hell for his sin. The Christian received discipline here for misbehavior, and loss at the Judgment seat of Christ for disobedience.

Now there’s some motivation for you. Don’t sin, because sin results in chastisement. Do live for Jesus, for that results in great reward.

Now we come to the concluding verses of this little section, where Peter tells us why hope makes us holy:

Slide7Why Hope makes us Holy: we were redeemed, so we believe!

18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Let me explain what this means. All those who don’t know Christ are like the merchandise in the slave market of sin. Whether they realize it or not, they are in bondage to desires, impulses, and ignorance—alienated from God, the one source of true freedom. They live in a condition in which they cannot help or change themselves. Their only hope is help from the outside.

Christ provided that help at the cross, where His own blood paid the penalty for sin—death. He didn’t pay in silver or gold—worthless scrap metal compared to the price of a human soul. No, Christ paid with His blood, breaking the chains, opening the door, and calling the unredeemed to step out of the bondage from which they had been purchased. And the only thing keeping any person from receiving this freedom is his or her own decision to accept the free offer of eternal life, stepping from the darkness of futility into the light of a joyous, meaningful life.

Christ didn’t purchase us with His precious blood to let us drift aimlessly through life. We are meant to be motivated to be Holy. How can we stay motivated? I have four suggestions I would urge you to remember.

First, pay close attention to what you look at. Your eyes are the closest connection to your mind. They capture images that are alluring, attractive, sensual, and pleasurable. Take care what you allow to pass through the gates of your eyes, especially when you are alone.

Second, give greater thought to long-range consequences than to immediate pleasures. You’ll notice that one of the characteristics of the world is that nobody ever mentions the disastrous consequences of lust, or feeding your greed. Walk through the consequences of your actions, thinking through the effects, naming the people whose lives will be harmed, and reminding yourself of the high cost of a ruined reputation.

Third, start each day by renewing your sense of reverence for God. Don’t limit that to the church. Start each1228 hope rising smiling day spending time with the Lord. Sometimes I simply say, “Lord, I’m here. I’m yours. I give You my day. As inadequate and fragile as I am, I need Your help this day.” Start each day by renewing that Father-child relationship.

Fourth, refocus on Christ throughout the day. As people, events, and temptations cross your path, you’ll begin to drift from that original course. Whatever happens, realign your focus upon Christ. Even if it means regularly scheduling short times of prayer or reading your Bible or devotional during breaks or lunch. Take time to focus on Him throughout the day.

 

Why We are Amazed!

amazing
What amazes you?

A gentleman named Agur, who lived during the times of Solomon once wrote: “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand:   the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maid.” Proverbs 3:18-19

In our hectic, mile a minute existences, it’s easy to forget just amazing our world truly is.  Let me give you some amazing data that seem more like fiction then fact.

  1. If you drilled a tunnel straight through the Earth and jumped in, and if you fell at the rate that skydivers fall, it would take you exactly 42 minutes and 12 seconds to get to china.
  2. A medium-sized cumulus cloud weighs about the same as 80 elephants.
  3. A single bolt of lightning contains enough energy to cook 100,000 pieces of toast.
  4. In an average lifetime, human skin completely replaces itself 900 times.
  5. A red blood cell can make a complete circuit of your body in 20 seconds.  During the hour and a half that you sit in church, your blood has been running over 150 laps!
  6. According to Amazon, the most highlighted Kindle books are, the Steve Jobs biography, and The Hunger Games, and #1, the Bible

what amazes you?Amazing.  We are still talking about why we smile while suffering.  We smile because we have discovered that where there is Christ, there is hope.  We smile because to God, we are “keepers;” we dance because we are bound for glory.  And today we will be amazed at what God has done for us.  Before we are finished I hope to leave you overwhelmed at how incredible it is that we have so great a salvation.

Let me tell you something.  We all are privileged people.  We live in an incredible time, and I’m not talking about technology.  Let me tell you why you should be overwhelmed with gratitude and why you are so privileged; it is because the best of men in history past, and the best of angels in heaven above, wish that they could see what you have seen, could have what you have.

We among all men and angels are privileged, and it ought to amaze us.

prophets souight it ouitThe Prophets Sought it Out!

Verse 10 notes “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully…”

What the prophets sought, we possess.  Moses sought it, as did Isaiah, as did King David the prophet.  Elijah searched for it, and so did his counterpart Elisha.  Even John the Baptist didn’t get it.  His desire was just to be the least  in the kingdom.  He asked Jesus, “Are you the one we’ve been expecting, or should be look for another?”  (Matthew 11:3).

When Jesus was born, the prophet Simeon prayed; Now Lord, let your servant die in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”  (Luke 2:29)

Many have earnestly longed to see our day, and have not seen it.  We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, who want to tell us one amazing truth: we are among the most privileged in all of history, for we get to experience so great a salvation!

But it isn’t just prophets who longed to have what we have,

Slide14The Angels Desire to Look into it. 

This is the only place in the Bible where angels and prophets are mentioned together. That’s fascinating because the Bible says a lot about angels and a lot about prophets, but only here do we have them in the same text.

Look at the closing phrase of verse 12.  It says, these are “things which angels desire to look into.“

If I told you that I had a special window that let me look into the realm of the angels, all of us would crowd around to get a glimpse of “the other side.” But who would have thought that the angels long to look at us and understand our salvation.

The words “look into,” Παρακυψαι· speak of one who is stooped down, or stooped over to better glimpse of something.  It is the posture of a sleuth like who Sherlock Holmes is intent on examining important evidence.  It’s the same word used for Peter and John stooping to look inside the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

Someone suggested that this is an allusion here to the cherubim who stood at the ends of the ark of the covenant, in the inner tabernacle, with their eyes turned down towards the mercy-seat in a bending posture, as if looking attentively. Even the holy angels are struck with astonishment at the plan of human redemption.

What do angels what to know?

Did you know that there has never been an angel that has ever been forgiven?  And did you know that there never ever will be even one single angel that will ever experience salvation?  And did you know that God never sent His son Jesus to pay the penalty for their sins.

Here is Peter’s message made plain: God loves you so much, the angels are amazed. They know nothing about grace and mercy and forgiveness. They’ve never experienced new life, the new birth, regeneration, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or the wonder of deliverance from sin. That which we have experienced in Jesus Christ, the angels never knew and will never know. We are far more privileged than they.

No wonder Jesus told His disciples, “blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men (and may I say angels) desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”  Matthew 13:16-17

We among all men and angels are privileged, and it ought to amaze us with gratitude and make us smile.  We know what the prophets never knew, and we experience what the angels wish they knew.

And what is that?  The prophets saw it coming…

Slide15The Prophets Prophesied of it!

Back to verse 10, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you.”

In one simple sentence, Peter tells us what we should be so amazed about; we should be amazed at Grace – Amazing Grace.  What’s so amazing about grace?  If you don’t know, you need to ask; you need to find out!  Unfortunately, the discussion of grace has become so commonplace to Christians, so every day, that to some of us it is so ho-hum!

It is like the healthy man who doesn’t appreciate walking until he is paralyzed.  It is like the wealthy man who takes abundant food for granted until he is lost and starving in the wilderness.  It is like the wise man who takes his powers of reasoning for granted until dementia begins taking them away.

Grace is even more amazing.  So what is Grace? “It is the undeserving gift of God, in which he offers lost sinners unmerited favor.”  We sinners deserve God’s wrath and instead in Jesus Christ we get love; we deserve punishment and get forgiveness—all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

Read the stories in the Gospels. “I was blind but now I see” (John 9). “[My son] was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). The news is spectacularly good, especially when held up against the bleak view of hopelessness that has a stranglehold on our world.

If you don’t have grace, you need it!  If you do have grace, you need to be amazed by it!  It keeps you smiling even if you are suffering.  It is the hope that brings comfort to the needy.

Slide16The Spirit Predicted It

11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

The prophets were the men in the Old Testament whom God chose to be his spokesmen on earth.  The spirit of Christ was in them.  It was the Spirit who moved the prophet to prophecy.  The prophets had two primary jobs: 1) They proclaimed God’s Word, and 2) They predicted future events.   Peter’s concern is with #2, the prophets as predictors of the future.

According to verse eleven, there are four amazing things about prophecy.  #1 Prophecy explains what is going to happen.  #2 Prophecy explains when it would happen – or what manner of time it would occur.  #3 Prophecies main focus is on Christ and his sufferings.  #4 Prophecy details the glories that are yet to follow.

Bible prophecy is one of the most amazing and unique characteristics of the Bible.  It is impossible to find anything like it anywhere else in history.  God has a track record of keeping his promises.  You can hang your hat on that!

The prophets predicted the coming of a Savior who would bring hope to this heartbroken world. Did you know there are over 300 separate prophecies in the Old Testament relating to the coming of Christ? And did you also know that Jesus fulfilled 33 prophecies on the day of his death.

Here are a few of those predictions the prophets made about Jesus:

  1. That he would be born of a virgin—Isaiah 7:14
  2. That he would be born in Bethlehem—Micah 5:2
  3. That he would be born into the tribe of Judah—Genesis 49:10
  4. That his ministry would begin in Galilee—Isaiah 9:1
  5. That he would work miracles—Isaiah 35:5, 6
  6. That he would teach in parables—Psalm 78:2
  7. That he would enter Jerusalem on a donkey—Zechariah 9:9
  8. That he would be betrayed by a friend—Psalm 41:9
  9. That he would be sold for 30 pieces of silver—Zechariah 11:12
  10. That he would be accused by false witnesses—Psalm 35:11
  11. That he would be wounded and bruised—Isaiah 53:5
  12. That his hands and feet would be pierced—Psalm 22:16
  13. That he would be crucified with thieves—Isaiah 53:12
  14. That his garments would be torn apart and lots cast for them—Psalm 22:18
  15. That his bones would not be broken—Psalm 34:20
  16. That his side would be pierced—Zechariah 12:10
  17. That he would be buried in a rich man’s tomb—Isaiah 53:9
  18. That he would rise from the dead—Psalm 16:10

These are only a few of the hundreds of prophecies about Jesus Christ given by the Old Testament prophets.  And let me just say something about Jesus.  Although prophecy predicts many different things; famines, earthquakes, plagues, the antichrist and the coming tribulation, the main purpose of prophecy is to point to Jesus.  Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

If you want to understand the Bible, look for Jesus!  Better to see him on every page than not to see him at all. The Bible is one book with 66 parts—all pointing to Jesus.

  • He is the Prophet greater than Moses.
  • He is the Priest greater than Aaron.
  • He is the King greater than David.
  • Jesus is the theme of the Bible.
  1. A) Jesus is the meaning of history. History truly is His Story. History is not about men and nations, or the rise and fall of empires. It’s not about building or buying or getting. History is not about who wins the election in November—as important as that is to most of us. History is about Jesus Christ! How do I know this? Because when he was born, he split history in two—into BC and AD! Every time unbelievers say 2016, they unknowingly confess the supremacy of our Lord. History is all about Jesus, and apart from him, history has no meaning.
  2. B) Salvation is the purpose of history. I don’t just mean salvation in the limited sense of you coming to Christ. I mean salvation in the larger sense of all that God intends to do to bring deliverance to this sin-cursed planet. Salvation is the story of the greatest rescue mission in the history of the universe. It’s about God sending his Son to redeem a rebel race, at the cost of his own Son, and then offering forgiveness and freedom to all who will believe in him. That great drama of salvation will come to its appointed culmination when Jesus returns to the earth.  And as I thought about this, my heart raced to the amazing words of the book of Revelation:  even so Lord Jesus come!  Amazing.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Amazing!

Slide17The Apostles Preached It

12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

The prophets were not speaking to themselves, the prophets were speaking to us!  The Apostles were not just preaching the gospel to the people of the 1st century, they spoke to men and women of every century.  The Bible is not meant for men of some other nation, or people of some other time; the Gospel is meant for you.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you.  If you doubt that, listen to what God says:

I love you! (John 3:16)  I created you in my image (Genesis 1:27) and I called you “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  I know the number of the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30) and I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3).  My precious thoughts of you are as countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18).

“… I will always love you; …. You are precious to me.”  Jeremiah, 31:3-4),  “… I can’t let you go. I can’t give you up. … My feelings for you are much too strong. Hosea 11:8).  “Could a mother forget her child who nurses?  Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you.” Isaiah 49:15)

You see I’ve loved you from the beginning, long before you loved me (1 John 4:19).  I sent my son Jesus, the exact representation of myself(Hebrews 1:3), to die on the cross in your place (Romans 5:8), to take upon Himself the punishment that you deserved (Isaiah 53:5), and to take away your sin (John 1:29).  For you the mighty Lion sacrificed his life as an innocent Lamb (Revelation 5:5-6).

Slide18One day soon I Jesus I will return to bring you and all my followers to the heavenly home that I have prepared for you (John 14:2).  I will wipe away your tears and take away your pain forever (Revelation 21:3-4) and I will reward you for all the you’ve done in my name (Revelation 22:12).  Heaven will be more beautiful and wonderful than you can imagine (Revelation 21:10-27).  There we will sing to God with angels (Revelation 7:9-17), feast at banquets (Matthew 22:14), and rule over cities (Luke 19:11-26).  Love, God

Does that not amaze you?  No wonder we smile!  We are the most blessed people in history. We know things the prophets never knew. We experience salvation the angels never experience.

Why Christians Should Dance for Joy!

what is joyEveryone wants joy.

All of us, I think, want to live fulfilled lives.  But joy means different things to different people.  It can be pretty difficult to maintain a positive attitude when all hell breaks loose in your life.  Who do you know that is good at smiling while suffering?  It’s tough.

One person wrote, “Finding joy is a challenge for me. I’m not naturally an upbeat person; I’m more of a melancholy. When I talk about joy, I’m not doing so from the perspective of a generally peppy person who never has a bad day.  Joy is the settled assurance that since God is in control of all the details of my life, everything, eventually is going to be alright, so I make the choice to praise God in every situation.”

So what is joy?joy

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure.  Everyone wants pleasure – pleasure makes me feel good. More deeply, everyone wants happiness – it makes my life brighter. Most deeply, everyone wants joy.

Generally speaking, Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and emotions.   While Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the center of the self.  The way to pleasure is indulgence.  Your body craves the pleasure of good food, human touch, hugs, kisses and the warmth of a fire.  The way to happiness is lightheartedness. Your mind and emotions desire the laughter of friendship and the fun of good times.  But your spirit, the deepest well of the human, craves the presence, and the light of the joyous Holy Spirit.  The way to joy is the Holy Spirit.

Pleasure and happiness are not necessarily bad, but they are often a substitute for spiritual joy.  Thomas Aquinas once said that, “No one can live without joy. That is why one deprived of spiritual joy indulges in personal sensual pleasures.”  People substitute other stuff for the joy of the Lord.  If Jesus does not consume your life, something else will!  We must choose Joy: Because neither happiness nor pleasure is ever enough.

Again let me ask, “What is joy?”

There are three words we need to discuss in order biblical joyto understand Joy.  The first is the word “joy” itself.  In the Greek New Testament Joy is χαρά (chara).  The second word is Grace.  In the Greek it is xáris (charis) (they are cognate words meaning that linguistically they come from the same original root word), meaning “good will;”  Because God is favorably disposed toward us he offers us grace.  The third word is Gift.  In the Greek it is χάρισμα (charisma), meaning “a gift, or favor.”

Let me see if I can put it all together for you.  The origin of joy is the Grace of God, which he offers as a gift… because of Jesus Christ, God looks favorably upon us and grants us the Gift of grace and the Holy Spirit.  When we experience God’s Grace and receive God’s Gift, God enables us to experience joy in the deepest recesses of our soul!  Joy comes as a gift directly from the Grace of God.

So how do you get the gift of joy?  You must surrender your soul to the Holy Spirit.  You should try it.  Millions of people for thousands of years have tried the experiment, and not one of them has ever been cheated.  All who seek, find—this is not just a promise about the next life, to be believed by faith, but a promise about this life, to be proved by experience.

In the very act of self-surrender to God there is joy.  We’ve all known people who are cold, suspicious, mistrusting, unable to let go. These people are miserable, wretched. They can’t find joy because they can’t trust.  You need faith to receive the gift of God’s grace, in order to find joy.

Here’s why we smile while suffering: We smile because we have received God’s gift of grace and we are bound for glory!  That is why

We Dance, Even in Our Trials!  1 Peter 1:6

Trials hurt usIn this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials”

I want to introduce you to another Greek word.  .  The first is the word was “joy” χαρά (chara).  The second word was Grace;  xáris (charis).  The third word was Gift; χάρισμα (charisma).  But the fourth word is what this message is all about.  The fourth word is Rejoice.  In the Greek it is xaírō (chairo), meaning “to be glad and rejoice.”

But, if you’ll notice in verse six, we don’t just rejoice, we “greatly” rejoice.  When I say “greatly,” I’m talking about a rejoicing that is walking and leaping and praising God!  In the original language, greatly means “leaping, springing up, bubbling up!”  I don’t mean to go all Pentecostal on you, but I think I see the Apostle Peter dancing in the isle!  It’s a jubilation!  The Spirit of the Lord has got a hold of Peter!

1 Thess. 5:16 commands us to “Rejoice always.”  Joy is the inner glow in our spirit, while rejoicing is the outer expression of Joy.  Abiding joy in the Lord should be the aim of every Christian.

Philippians 4:4 commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”  This is a commandment, repeated twice for emphasis, so that we will not shrug it off. It is a command that we must deliberately choose to obey, especially when we’re in difficult circumstances. It has to do with our attitude which depends on submission to the Holy Spirit. The choice to rejoice often goes deliberately against how we feel. When we go through trials, we are faced with a decision: Will we obey this command to rejoice in the Lord or will we allow ourselves to be swept along by our feelings?

Let me give you three pointers for smiling while suffering and rejoicing in trials.

Slide8#1.  Remind yourself that your trials won’t last much longer.  In verse 6, Peter phrases it this way.  Dance with me, rejoice greatly, because trials are only “for a little while.”  Just remember, this won’t last forever.  This too shall pass.  Trust in Jesus and wait it out.  There is hope for tomorrow, because on our tomorrow, Jesus is coming again.

#2.  Remind yourself that trials are God’s tools to meet your needs.  That little phrase in verse six, “if need be,”  indicates that there are special times when God knows that we need to go through trials. Sometimes trials discipline us when we have disobeyed God’s will (Ps. 119:67). At other times, trials prepare us for spiritual growth, or even help to prevent us from sinning (2 Cor. 12:1—9). We do not always know the need being met, but we can trust God to know and to do what is best.  Therefore we dance with Jesus, through trials.

#3.  Remind yourself that it’s OK to weep and still rejoice.  Peter was not unrealistic about how difficult our trials may be.  In our verse, he calls them “grievous trials.”  The word means “to experience grief or pain.  It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy, even as He faced the cross (John 15:11).

We would misapply Peter’s words if we took him to mean that a Christian should never feel sadness or grief.  To rejoice in the Lord does not mean that we deny our feelings or that we stoically endure our trials by ignoring how much we hurt.  To deny that our trials are painful is to make them even worse. Christians must accept the fact that there are difficult experiences in life and not put on a brave front just to appear “more spiritual.”

Here is something you may, or may not know.  Rejoicing is a spiritual weapon to fight off attacks on our mind.  It’s like anti-venom from a poisonous snake bite.  Rejoicing is not about trying to pretend you’re not in pain.  It’s believing that when you do rejoice … the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will visit you when it would not otherwise.

We Dance Because We are Growing Deeper 1 Peter 1:7Slide9

“that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”

Nobody knows all that is in store for us in heaven, but this we do know: Life today is a school in which God trains us for our future ministry in eternity. This explains the presence of trials in our lives. Do you want to know why you should dance for joy when trials come?

Trials test us.  Trials test the genuineness of our faith.  Do you want to know who the real Christians are?  They are the ones hanging tenaciously to their faith when trials come.  Too many professing Christians have a “false faith,” and this will be revealed in the trials of life. I’m not saying you won’t doubt or struggle, or even question God.  But once you walk through the fiery trial and make it out the other side, you can say, “hey!  I just learned something about myself!  My faith is genuine!”

Testing is precious.   Our tested faith is much more precious than gold.  Peter illustrated this truth by referring to the goldsmith. No goldsmith would deliberately waste the precious ore. He would put it into the smelting furnace long enough to remove the cheap impurities; then he would pour it out and make a beautiful article of value.  That’s why testing is precious because of God is making something precious of us.

Testing is glory.  When we pass the test; when we see Jesus face to face; then our faith will receive praise, honor, and glory.  Our trying experiences today are preparing us for glory tomorrow.  While we may not be able to rejoice as we look at our trials today, we can rejoice as we look ahead.

We dance because we are born for glory, kept for glory, and being prepared for glory.

Slide11We Dance Because We are Going for Glory!  1 Peter 1:8-9

“Whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,  9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

We don’t have to see it to believe it!  I love the way Peter wrote this verse.  I’m pretty sure he had doubting Thomas in mind when he wrote it.  Our love for Christ is not based on physical sight, because we have not seen Him. It is based on our spiritual relationship with Him and what the Word has taught us about Him.

Some people cannot believe in a God that they cannot see.  But it turns out that our ability to grasp abstract ideas like an invisible God and the power of invisible faith, are marks which only the highest functioning hearts and minds possess.  It also turns out that our ability to maintain a love connection with a God we cannot see is also a mark which only the deepest hearts and minds possess.  We don’t have to see it to believe it.

So here is what happens to average, everyday folk when they believe in a God they cannot see, and love a Jesus whom they have never met… Their hearts are filled with an unexplainable joy!

Slide12We don’t have to see it to rejoice in it!  Read verse 8 again, and you’ll see Peter dancing in the aisles!  “yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  Let me tell you about the kind of Joy that Jesus gives.  It is Joy inexpressible.  It is so powerful that we can’t even explain it!  We are dumfounded by it.  But there is more!  Our rejoicing is full of glory!  This is a superlative word which means incredibly glorious, filled with splendor; It is a word which describes incredible happiness like praising Jesus, extolling God, celebrating the Holy Spirit.  This joy is the most potent antidote to depression, the most amazing supplement to health, and the most incredible ride of a lifetime!  You have got to get some of this.  It turns out, there’s enough to go around for all of us!

Though we don’t see it now, we will get it in glory!  One of these days soon we are going to experience the end of our faith.  We are going to see Jesus face to face, and the joy that we experience then will make the trials in this life pale in comparison.  There is nothing like seeing Jesus!

To rejoice in the Lord always is an attitude of contentment and hope that transcends circumstances.   The joy Paul is exhorting us to is decidedly not the kind of joy the world offers.