Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Test Results Equals Praise - April 27, 2014 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9
This morning we continue to bask and revel in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered why the world, or we might say why the Christian Church moved its day of worship from Saturday, the last day of the week, the day God rested from His work of creation, to worshiping on Sunday, the first day of the week? Something really great and wonderful must have happened to change what the world and what the Christian Church was doing for so many years. Of course, we know that the change came about because of the resurrection of Jesus and now each and every Sunday is for us Christians a mini Easter resurrection celebration. And so, we might rightly greet each other every Sunday as we greeted each other on Easter Sunday, with the words and response, He is risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia.
In our text for this morning Peter rightly expresses our words of praise to God, to our God who gave His life and raised Himself from the dead for us. Peter tells us that God is blessed. We read again, “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v. 3-5). God is blessed because He has earned salvation for us. Here again we are able to distinguish the Christian Church and even our own protestant denomination from many others with the focus of these events. Going back to the Garden of Eden, it was Eve and Adam, the crown of God’s creation, God’s perfect creation, who disobeyed God and brought sin and death into the world. And because God knew His creatures could not restore their broken relationship with Himself, He made a promise to restore that relationship for them.
This past Sunday we celebrated the completion of the restoration of God’s creation, us to Himself. Last Christmas, as we do every year at Christmas, we celebrated the birth of God in flesh, the one who came to restore our relationship with God. We celebrated God taking on human flesh. On Friday, on Good Friday we watched as Jesus suffered the punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and for the sins of all people who have ever lived, for all our sins and for the sins of all people who ever will live. Jesus paid the complete price and cost for sin. As Peter says in the text, Jesus has earned for us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Not only has God taken care of our sins, completely, now He continues to guard our faith. It is important that our Lord continue to guard our faith, because the devil, Satan, the old evil foe is still alive and well and is still working to wreck havoc on the world. The devil hates us and he hates everything that God does. His only interest is to destroy, because he is completely evil. And so, he continues, roaming around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Yet, we have our Lord on our side, continuing to guard us and keep us safe.
Yes, temptations may come from the devil, but the Lord guards us and keeps us safe. At the same time, in order to strengthen us so that we might bear up under temptation and sin, there may come times of trial in our lives. Peter goes on to explains picking up at verse six, “6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (v. 6-9). The Lord may allow us to face certain trials while we live yet in this world and we understand that these trials may come for a little while.
The reason the Lord may allow us to be subject to trials is so that our faith, the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, may be tested. Gold is a precious metal and is very valuable and yet, even gold may perish. Gold is purified through fire, that is, gold is subjected to extreme heat in order to burn away the impurities so that only the gold remains. Likewise, when it comes to our faith, it too is tested through fiery trials so that it is strengthened. At the same time, Peter assures us that our faith is more precious than gold, meaning that as the Lord tests our faith, He is there to give us the strength we need as we go through our testing.
The desired outcome of putting gold through fire is that through the fire it may be made pure. The desired outcome of the fiery trials we may face is so that we may give praise, glory and honor to Christ. Trials may not seem pleasant at the time we undergo them, and sometimes even for sometime later they may not seem pleasant, as if they might ever seem pleasant, yet, the goal of trials is not to make us comfortable, but to build us up, to strengthen us so that we might be drawn closer to the Lord and give Him praise and glory and honor. During times of trials we might rightly think of Jesus and what He underwent for us, namely that He suffered eternal spiritual death for us, in our place and so we will gladly suffer for His name sake in order to give praise and glory to His holy name.
Ultimately the desired outcome of trials is eternal life in heaven. The ultimate desired outcome of our life in this world is indeed, eternal life in heaven. Of course, we understand that this outcome has already been achieved and accomplished for us. It is meted out to us by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection for us.
What does this mean? It means that we will face trials and temptations. Just because we are Christians, does not mean that life will be easy. As a matter of fact, if you have been taking notice of what has been going on in the world, since the beginning of time, is that those who are Christians are usually, more than likely, the ones who are undergoing trials and temptations, even more than those who are not Christians. This is true on two counts, one is that the world does not like the exclusive claim of Christians, that is that there is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Jesus, alone, and the second count is that the devil hates us and all that is God’s and he is feverishly working to destroy anything and everything that is good. And we can see these two things constantly happening in our world.
Yes, we will face trials and temptations and we must understand that we cannot face them alone. Oh, I guess we can face them alone, but we will fail. We cannot resist the devil on our own. We need help and God is there, always, to help us.
Not only is our Lord always there to help us, He has already taken care of everything. God in Christ has already done everything for us. All the temptations that we may face, Jesus has already faced and won. Jesus soundly defeated the devil and He is always there to help us.
We may try to face the devil on our own. We may try to face trials and temptation on our own, but we will fail. We need God’s help.
How do we get God’s help? How does God help? How is this done? When we face trials and temptations God may provide help in one of three ways. First, God may provide a way out. Perhaps you are visiting with some friends when someone begins defaming someone’s precious name. (And here I would suggest we pray for that friend Satan is using to defame another.) As this one person continues they may stop and look at you with that expecting look, giving you the opportunity to join in and defame that person as well. A way out of this temptation would be simply to change the subject and talk about something more uplifting.
When we face trials and temptations, God may provide a way out or God may provide the strengthen need to bear up. Again, back to our scenario, suppose the person turns and looks at you with that expectation that you join in the defaming. God may provide you with the strength to say that it is not right to be defaming this person and you will not join in.
Again, when we face trials and temptations, God may provide a way out or God may provide the strengthen need to bear up, or God may take away the trial or temptation. Back to our scenario, if God does not provide a way out, that is that you may simply change the subject and if God does not provide you with the strength you might think you need, then He may take the temptation away, perhaps something will distract your friend and the subject will be changed.
Now, I know this is a rather simplistic scenario, but it does, nonetheless, illustrate that fact that God does help us in times of trials and temptations. The bottom line, if you will, is that because we are Christians, we will face difficulties in this world. Rather than fear those challenges, our Lord would have us cling to Him, who has defeated all, so that He will help us to overcome and win out in the end, or as Peter says, so that we may attain the salvation of our souls. And rest assured, even when we fail, and we do and will fail, with Jesus there is always forgiveness, that is the reason He came to give His life for ours.
This morning we continue to revel in our Easter celebration. Every year we make our way through the church year calendar in order to be reminded of what great things our Lord has done, does and continues to do for us. We need these constant reminders. We need to be constantly fed with the spiritual nourishment of our Lord’s means of grace. Yes, the old cliche is true, seven days without the Word of God makes one weak (that’s w-e-a-k), that is why we come every Sunday, that is why we have personal and family devotions and read our Bible every day, so that we are fed, nourished and strengthened in order that the Lord might help us in times of trials and temptations. And He will help and we will win and we will give praise, glory and honor to His Holy name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.