The Miracle of Easter

CrossYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we checked out Solomon’s words regarding wisdom and learned that no matter the path you’re on, there’s always opportunity to get back on the right path. Maybe you’re here and you’re thinking, I don’t know the right path to take. I didn’t even know there was a path. Today is your lucky day! Today, Easter is celebrated all over the world, but do we really understand this day that many people celebrate? Is it just another consumer holiday where we look forward to seeing everyone’s new outfits and enjoy chocolate and jelly beans? Maybe you enjoy Easter because it generally marks the beginning of Spring. I don’t want you to miss the miraculous and eternal significance of Easter. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back in time from the first Easter to a week or so earlier.

Take the time to read our passage for this morning found in Luke 19:28-40.

So who is this Jesus? The name Jesus brings many thoughts to people’s minds. Names are like that; they mean a lot. Sometimes nicknames are commonly associated with people and are instantaneously recognized. Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra. The King of Pop – Michael Jackson. The King – Elvis. Michael Jordan is known as Air Jordan. There are the not so great people like Ivan the terrible , Jack the Ripper, Bloody Mary, and Vlad the Impaler. Biblically we have John – the Baptizer. Lydia – the seller of purple. Few people call him just Thomas without preceding it with doubting. These descriptive names are no different for Jesus.

In Matt. 1:21 an angel appeared to Joseph and told him, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, f He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. Jesus most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He is known as the Messiah. The Light of the world. The Prince of Peace. The bright and morning star. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the redeemer, the advocate, the bread of life. He is the power of God. He is the Lamb of God, the good shepherd, the high priest. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the resurrection and the life. That’s who Jesus is. This Jesus was loved by people of all walks of life. This is the Jesus that the prophet Micah said would come to rule Israel, One whose, “Goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” While loved and adored by the common people, this Jesus was despised by the religious groups of the day – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus upset the apple cart; He rocked the boat; He went against the flow, He said things that were different than what those religious people had been taught and what they believed. They called Jesus a blasphemer, they judged Jesus because He hung out with the less desirables; the tax collectors and sinners. They accused Him of violating the Sabbath because He encouraged His disciples to pick grain when they were hungry. They didn’t like this, in fact, “The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.” (Luke 6:7) Jesus taught on the Sabbath, Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

So now we know who Jesus is, but why do we need Jesus? The religious crowd of the day despised Jesus because He threatened their power, their control, their desire to be elevated above others, their desire to be better than anyone else, their desire to control their own destiny, their desire and requirement for everyone to follow the Law. The Law was an interesting thing. Various religions and even denominations attempt to control people by requiring the strict following of a set of rules and regulations. Rom. 3:19-20 tells us, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Even though the Pharisees wanted everyone to keep the Law, they were powerless to keep it – all the Law did was show people they were law breakers. We need Jesus because no matter how good we think we are, the Bible says there is not a single person that is good. The Bible is very clear about our need for redemption. We need redemption because according to Rom. 6:6 we are slaves to sin. Sin owns us, it is our master. Rom. 3:23 says, “All have sinned.” 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

What is sin? If we redefine what sin is, it’s easier to deal with. In our culture, we conform to the idea that personal feelings are the barometer of right and wrong, of morality and truth. We seek comfort and the least resistant path. We seek to please ourselves. We listen to so called “Christian teachers” or influential people who make us feel better about following our own path, about living in sin. Instead of calling people to repentance and authentic Christian living, these people refuse to call sin what God calls sin. We have a whole new generation of people that have succumbed to cultural pressure that it’s intolerant, judgmental, and unloving to declare God’s truth as absolute. I love Paul’s description of this found in Gal. 5:19-21 that says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Evident is from the word that mean plainly recognized. These are the things of the flesh – they are incompatible with a life that follows God. Left to our own devices, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know who Jesus is, and we know why we need Jesus, now finally, what should we do with Jesus? In answering this very question to the Jews that gathered in the treasury at the temple in Jo. 8:34-36: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. ‘The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” There is freedom in Christ. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin, not from the consequences. God will not and cannot allow us to get away with sin, but don’t expect to see someone’s nose grow if they tell a lie. We live in such a hectic, no time for anything world; a world where we seek instant gratification. Our cure then, comes not by redefining sin or by avoiding it. Our cure comes by admitting our sin, turning from it and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Easter          is about hope, it’s about life; it’s about fulfilled promises; it’s about Jesus. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to be free, how do I get this freedom?” To answer that question, we need to go again to the standard of truth. Remember that each of us is a sinner, we have all done wrong. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As with any gift, you must accept it; just because it has your name on it does not make it yours until you receive it. Maybe if we just try harder to be good and righteous. No, the answer to sin is not to try harder to avoid it or change who you are. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, it’s not enough. Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rom. 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confess is a great word. It means the same thing as agree. In other words, when you confess to God your failure to meet His standard or admit your wrongdoings, you are agreeing with Him.

Maybe you’re thinking God won’t accept you like you are. Pastor Ian if you only knew about me. Maybe you’re thinking, when I give up ___________, I will be good enough and I’ll trust in Christ. Here’s the good news: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) We don’t have to try harder because God knows that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. (Jo. 15:5) Rom. 10:13 says, “For ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” You are that whoever. It is a guarantee. Becoming a Christian is a choice; it is a decision only you can make for yourself. Being a Christian really means being a follower of Christ. God changes your heart, changes your attitude, and you joyfully want to follow Jesus. It’s not something you do begrudgingly. Being a follower of Christ gives you freedom! You are not a Christian because you live in America or because you attend church, or because you pray or read the Bible, or go to a Bible study. You are a Christian because you have made a decision to trust in what Christ did to pay the penalty for sin; you choose to follow Christ. Paul gives us this hope in Rom. 6:10-11, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jo. 1:12) So how did we get to the point of death? What began just five or so days earlier as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving palm branches and expressing their adoration for this man from Galilee, was overwhelmed by the crowds in Jerusalem that demanded His death by crucifixion. They got what they asked for and Jesus was sentenced to die on a cross for being found guilty of nothing. Jesus dies a horrible death on the cross and was buried in a tomb.

The rest of the story is found in Luke 24:1-9. Easter is all about the penalty Jesus Christ paid to cover our sin debt. He shed His blood for you, because of His incredible, unending, unconditional love. He is not here because He is risen. Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life that He can give you.

You have heard about who Jesus is and why we need Jesus. You have heard about what you should do with Jesus now there remains just one question. What will you do about what you know?Risen

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Church Shopping?

ShoppingA Facebook friend recently posted that his family was in a new place and had begun week #1 of church shopping. It sounds innocuous enough, but I think there are some real underlying themes there that are overriding traditional church culture and is indicative of where we are in the church today.

While finding a church home is not as critical as other decisions, it’s not to be taken too lightly either. I’ve heard many people use this phrase and it gives an indication that if you keep shopping, you’ll find a better bargain. Have you ever scoured the internet or searched sale papers looking for the best deal for a purchase? As soon as you pull the trigger and buy or order the item, you see the same thing advertised at a better deal. Shopping can be really exciting and fun, but it can also be a real bummer.

Does God’s desire come into play or are we like an excited bride looking for the perfect dress for her wedding? Wedding dresses have become such big business that we now have reality TV shows that follow brides seeking that perfect dress. Tirelessly trudging from store to store with the idea that there is the perfect dress out there . . . you’ve just got to be willing to find it.

Well Captain Obvious, churches are not dresses. You’re right. But when we shop for a church, we convince ourselves that there are better deals, better bargains, and more choices if we just keep looking. I live in a military town and there is a fairly high rate of turnover with people transferring in and out. Unfortunately, God seems to be consulted a lot more frequently about a dress than He is about where to serve. It’s not a life ending choice . . . about the dress or a church. At our church I’ve heard from people’s own mouths that they’ve been looking for a church for years. I think the longest I’ve heard is five years of searching. It took less time to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Paul’s first missionary journey took less time. So did his second and third. What in the world are you looking for? People today are significantly more transitional then they used to be. It’s not unusual for someone not in the military to move every three or four years. Why do people delay in committing to a church? There it is . . . commitment. People are quicker to jump into relationships than they are a church. What if it’s the “wrong” church? What is a wrong church?

I’ve often said there are three things to look for in a church. When I say church, I’m referring to a New Testament church. I remember speaking at a church years ago discussing their future and I preached from Acts 2. I asked the question, “Are you functioning as a New Testament church?” The leader of the church, a 78 year old woman (that’s another story), told me, “No.” That church was dead, they knew it, but they didn’t care. Okay here are the three:

  1. Does the pastor preach biblically based messages?
  2. Does the church care about the community?
  3. Are the people mostly friendly?

There are a number of other benchmarks I would include (doctrine, theology, missions, vision, accountability, etc.), but if a church has these three, then you can enter into further discussion with the leadership about those other important areas. People have got to quit browsing the spiritual buffet to determine where God wants them. Oh, well church X has something for the kids, but church Y doesn’t so we’ll go to church X. In my own ears someone told me, “We’re looking for something for our kids, they’ve never even sat with us in church.” Huh? It doesn’t matter how awesome a church’s student group is if the pastor never preaches from the Bible.

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for the perfect church: STOP! You’ll only mess it up by going there. Be intentional about plugging in. Take advantage of what is offered. Don’t wait to be asked to serve or participate. Time is short and eternity is long. Do what you can to show people the way there. Get in the game and live out your faith. Do not be a lone ranger Christian.

No Regrets

No RegretYou can check out the podcast here.

If we think about our lives even for just a moment, we’ll think of things we could have done differently; things we shouldn’t have done, decisions we’d like a do over on. I call it what if land and it’s not a good place to be. The Apostle Paul provides us some excellent insight in his letter to the Philippians. This letter differs in some respects from any of Paul’s other letters. It contains less logic and more of the heart. His letter to the Romans has incredible logic. His letters to the Corinthians rebuked certain prevalent sins. Galatians rebukes a dangerous heresy that threatened the welfare of the Galatian churches. Ephesians unfolds the mystery of God in reference to the Gentiles. This letter is the outpouring of the love towards one of the most affectionate and faithful of all congregations which he had planted. The church at Philippi was founded in A.D. 50 or 51 (Acts 16). On his second missionary journey, Paul, led by a vision at Troas, crossed into Europe, landed at Neapolis and went directly to Philippi. Why Philippi?  It was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) It is interesting to note that this was the first church planted in Europe.

Take a careful look at the incredible words of Phil. 3:1-14.

Paul begins with what is not the Way. He starts by this third chapter by telling the church what the way is not. Religious ceremonies are not the way. Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  (Phil 3:5-6) If anybody had a heritage to brag about it was Paul. He met all the religious requirements of a good Jew. “Circumcised the eighth day.” In strict compliance with the Law. “Of the nation of Israel.” He could trace his lineage as far back as any Jew. “From the tribe of Benjamin.” Remember that the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah were the only two tribes not to revolt under the leadership of Jeroboam and maintained their allegiance to God. The tribe of Benjamin was physically located next to the temple. “A Hebrew of Hebrews.” He belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; both of his parents were Jewish with no mixture of Gentile blood. Not one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction. Paul says he was entitled to all the advantages which could be derived from it. “A Pharisee.” The Pharisees strictly adhered to every letter of the law. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” (Acts 26:4) If religion could save anyone, it certainly would have saved Paul. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law.” He was zealous in his persecution of the church who he thought was in great error in doctrine. As a Jew and a Pharisee, he believed righteousness was found in the Law.

Notice how Paul introduces his religion to the Philippians: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:2-3) Look at the warnings. Dogs – the greatest insult you could give someone. The Jews called the heathen dogs, and Islam calls Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to identify a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious. Evil workers. Probably the same people Paul considered dogs – Jews who taught that religion saved you. False circumcision – from the Greek word meaning to mutilate. These dogs and false teachers were not truly circumcised. True circumcision comes after salvation as a sign of obedience; it does not cause salvation. But Paul says, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:3) We are the circumcision. We worship God the only way one can worship God – in Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh.

What is the way to God? You’ve got to look at verses 7-11 to find out. All things were loss except the knowledge of Christ Knowledge in this verse is the Greek word gnosis. This is head knowledge. Anything he had mentally. His seven religious credentials. In v. 8 Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” “Suffered the loss” comes from a Greek word that means to willingly give up. Paul gave up “all things.” Anything thing that someone might depend on for salvation: works, religion, heritage, earthly favor, position. Paul considered it rubbish. Rubbish comes from the word that means excrement. Just as you rid your body of waste, Paul wanted to rid himself all of the earthly advantages and Jewish privileges as a means of obtaining salvation. Why?  Look at what Paul says: “That I may gain Christ.”

In verses 9 and 10, Paul speaks of his own righteousness which comes from the Law. Paul wants the righteousness of Christ which can only come through faith. What is faith? Faith comes from the Greek word pistis meaning a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “That I may know him.” This is a different know. This is from the Greek word meaning to know and understand. Paul wants to know Christ so he could share in His sufferings and be conformed to His death. This knowledge or understanding of Christ’s sufferings is obtained by experiencing the daily challenges and needs of ministry that will draw us closer to Christ. Sharing in the Lord’s sufferings will bring you into a more meaningful and intimate relationship with Christ. Comfortable or conformed unto death has a double meaning here. Just as Jesus died because of the sin of the world, Paul is dying more and more to sin in his daily life. Remember that Paul is in prison as he writes and is prepared to die for Christ if that is what’s necessary.

In v. 11 Paul desires to attain the resurrection of the dead. In v. 12 he denies that he has attained it. The word “attained” means to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it. Paul knows Christ, but not to the fullest extent possible. He has experienced God’s power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but Paul can still die to sin and self. Paul walks in newness of life, but there is still room for improvement. Paul didn’t think he arrived after 25 years of serving the Lord, so we shouldn’t either. In verse 13 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Notice that Paul forgets those things that are in the past. The wrongs you have done. The sins you have committed. The things you should have done, but never did. The things Satan tells you cannot be forgiven. Put all of them behind you and forget them. In his pursuit to know Christ, Paul refuses to let guilt drag him down and doesn’t rest on past accomplishments. We don’t sail on yesterday’s wind. He’s pressing toward the mark. What is the mark? The mark is contained in vs. 10 and 11. Be like minded with Paul because his thinking comes from the Lord.  If you don’t think like Paul, the Lord will reveal it to you.

Are you living in the past or allowing Christ to renew and refresh you? Are you repeating mistakes or sins of the past? Rom. 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritual Persecution

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You can listen to the podcast here.

Today we observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church or IDOP. 100 million of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Why does God allow persecution? Why is the church growing fastest in countries where persecution is most severe?

The book of Acts opens with the very last moments of Christ’s physical presence on earth. Jesus gave His apostles one last instruction to witness to the city of Jerusalem, the area of Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth and then Jesus was, “lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) And so the apostles did just that. The early church was growing by huge numbers. Peter preached his very first message at Pentecost where 3000 souls recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Those 3000 people didn’t know any better and so they began, “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

Over the next couple of chapters in Acts we see something extraordinary take place. Opposition began to grow against this loving bunch of guys that walked and lived by faith in a passionate, authentic way. Peter had just healed the lame man and he, the lame man, and the apostles went together to Herod’s temple and find themselves inundated by the people in the portico of Solomon. Peter gives his second message where 5000 men were saved. The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees were, “greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) As a result, these religious leaders toss Peter and his colleagues into jail. They hold a trial and question Peter as to what authority he had to speak of such things. Peter lays it on them by answering the question of the ages by concluding that, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given my men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The apostles were released with the warning that they would not preach in the name of Jesus again.

A short while later, perhaps the next day or two, we find Peter and the apostles back at the portico of Solomon teaching in the name of Jesus, the very thing they were told not to do. Back to jail they go for the night, but this night would be different. An angel of the Lord opens the gates of the prison and tells them to go back to the temple and teach the whole message of this life. They arrived back at the temple about daybreak and began to teach. That brings us to our passage in Acts 5:27-42. I hope you’ll take the time to read this great passage.

To be sure, biblical persecution results because of our position in Christ. For those of us that follow Jesus, can we expect persecution? 2 Tim. 3:12 says, “Indeed all who desire to live godly will be persecuted.” While we may not suffer the same type of persecution here as in those top 50 countries, I think our persecution may take a different form. Satan is our enemy, our adversary and he knows and understands how things work. Our enemy can use most anything as a trip wire to get our focus away from God. Satan is not so concerned with lost people. He seeks to destroy you, to deceive you, to discourage you. Why? When people watch us, we serve as an example of Jesus Christ in the flesh. We are not Christ, but we have His DNA. While I believe the tortuous persecution will come to these United States, for now religious persecution is not tolerated . . . unless you’re a Christian. The church has taken a defensive position and has fallen back on her heals under cultural screams of intolerance and judgment. In America I believe we are spiritually persecuted. We’re told by society how we’re supposed to act and many Christians have become introverted in their faith. We become unwitting pawns in Satan’s plan.

The enemy of Jesus Christ is real. I think one of the top attacks of the enemy is confusing us with things that aren’t bad in themselves, but they misprioritze life even if for a moment. How does he do this? He attacks us. He is on the offensive. He attacks our marriages, one of the principle foundations of society. He attacks relationships pitting friends against friends. He leads us to think about ourselves rather than others. We are deceived about the truth because we form opinions of  the Bible without ever looking at the Bible. When C4 first started in 2007, our leadership was committed to keeping things simple. Some of us were particularly weary of church busyness so we committed to not have activities and things every day or night of the week. Christians were so busy with church activities that there wasn’t an abundance of time to do actual ministry. Now it seems that we’re too busy for church. We have the freedom to worship the One and only true God and yet we fall in the trap of our enemy. We’ve bought the lie that we can have casual, shallow associations with believers. We’ve bought the lie that we don’t need the fellowship the early believers had. They were together continuously and we find it nearly impossible to spend an hour or two a week with believers.

I think we’re persecuted with the mind games of the devil. At least our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world can see the tools Satan uses against them. Those that oppress and persecute are visible. The enemy can be seen. Christians are fighting among themselves and attacking one another when Satan is the enemy! The world desperately needs to see the power of God that was evident in Peter’s life in us. The world needs to see that we’re confident in Christ, that we’re bold in Christ, and most of all that we’re loving in Christ. After the disciples were flogged in Acts 5:40, we come to vs. 41-42:

“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

In their time of greatest need, they continued in what they knew; they were not deterred. The time we’re supposed to draw close to Christ, we actually withdraw and blame God for abandoning us in our time of need. The principles of prayer, trust, hope that once grounded us in faith are cast aside and traded for doubt, anxiety, and fear.

These all fall right into our enemy’s plan. Shifting the focus from God to ourselves and we’re lost in a sea of despair with no way out. Will you allow your circumstances to control your faith? Or will you allow the power of Christ to shine in your life regardless of what’s going on? We often ask the question, if faced with adversity, would you deny Christ? That’s a difficult question to answer and probably the wrong one to ask. Maybe a better question is, if faced with life, would you deny Christ? Isn’t that, in essence, what we do when we abandon the fundamental principles of the faith?

Beware of Twisters

TwisterCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Peter told us to live intentionally; that’s what God expects. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Holy Spirit can take up residence in your heart and nothing changes. This morning, Peter continues drawing from the conclusion he started in v. 14 and adds some additional instructions.

2 Pet. 3:15-16 says, And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

But wait there’s more! Verse 15 is tied to v. 14 by the article, “and.” In addition to being, “found at peace in Him, blameless and spotless,” Peter says, “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” We’re diligently pursuing a life of holiness because the power of God resides within us giving us not just a desire to be blameless and spotless, but the power to be blameless and spotless. Since we are zealous in our pursuit of Christ, the delay in His coming should be regarded as providing us with additional opportunities to tell people about Jesus, to share the Gospel with people so they can repent and be saved. Remember God’s deepest desire is to reconcile humanity with Himself through the finished work of Christ. Once He returns, it’s game over for lost people. They cannot make a decision for Christ when, “He descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God.” (1 Thes. 3:16) No time for lost people to say, “Okay, now I believe.” The door that is Jesus Christ will close. At the same time, I wonder how many professing believers will be ashamed at the lack of zeal they had for Christ on earth. I wonder how many Christians that are content to live a life of mediocrity now will look back at the lives they lived. Our perspective would change if we’d look at things through the eyes of God. We know the answer to life’s problems and challenges and His name is Jesus! Let’s not use our time on earth to pursue temporary things. Let’s use our remaining time on earth to live a life that pleases the King and brings glory to His name. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus! Remember what Peter said in the beginning of this letter in 2 Pet. 1:3, “God has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We have the power to live a life that is spotless and blameless because of Jesus. Use this transformed lifestyle along with God’s patience and His delay in sending Jesus back as an opportunity to evangelize.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. Peter mentions Paul. Don’t you just love people that name drop? It seems to creep into all aspects of life. Peter drops a name, but is it the same thing we do? He says in v. 15, “Just as our beloved Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” It’s not a casual name drop like we do when we don’t really know the people. Paul wrote about these same two exhortations Peter mentions. Scripture always interprets Scripture. The pronoun, “our” links Paul with Peter and the other apostles. Paul’s letters are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God. So why did Peter feel the need to say that Paul taught these things too? It seems that some of these false teachers and mockers had twisted the words of Paul to fit their own agendas. Remember these people are not misinformed students of God’s Word that have taken some verses out of context. They’re not overzealous teachers eager to teach people the way of truth and somehow messed it up. These people are intentionally leading infant Christians astray with their unbiblical teaching.

Look at v. 16 and see how Peter explains it. Peter acknowledges that some parts of Scripture are hard to understand, but that should not prevent us from trying. Paul told Timothy very clearly, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” (2 Tim. 2:15-18) The best way to combat false or wrong teaching is to be a student of God’s Word. Imagine being named in Scripture as someone that has gone astray. Someone that has gone off the path of righteousness. Remember the false teachers were pushing a licentious, sensual lifestyle saying it didn’t matter how you live because Christ was not returning and therefore there is no coming judgment. They twisted Paul’s words in passages like Rom. 6:1-7. When you read and understand this foundational letter, “I can’t help” it is not an acceptable excuse to ignore or excuse sin. Paul is clear that once you enter a relationship with Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin; sin doesn’t have dominion over you.

“The untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their destruction.” Before we analyze this phrase, we need to understand some words. Untaught literally means ignorant. Unstable means likely to change or collapse. Distort means twist out of shape. One of the worst things a Bible study teacher or leader to ask is what do you think that means? Back in 2:14, the false teachers were, “enticing unstable souls.” Now the unstable are distorting or twisting Paul’s writings, and they do it to their own destruction. We’ve seen throughout 2 Peter that destruction refers to an eternal punishment. What they were doing was not an issue of a minor point of doctrine, but they were using Paul’s words to justify their immoral lifestyles. This isn’t the first time Paul’s writing were misunderstood. In 1 Cor. 5:9-11 Paul said, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” The Corinthians misunderstood what Paul said. Paul was not the kind of preacher that taught a feel good message that changed with the times to remain relevant. His words are the words of God Himself.

1 Cor. 14:37 says, “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” The Word of God is not just another book. It is God’s history, instructions, commands, expectations, and promises for us. We don’t use it as a weapon to destroy people, but as a light to show people the path to salvation. We use it to get to know the One that transforms our mind, heart, and soul. We don’t need to make it more attractive, or more palatable for the lost, or more relevant to the hip crowd, or more entertaining for the over stimulated teenagers. The Bible is the book of the Lord. (Is. 34:16), the book of the Law (Neh. 8:3, Gal. 3:10), the good Word of God (Heb. 6:5), the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, it is the Word of Truth; it is the Word of Life!

Significant damage has been accomplished by people that attempt to shape God into something He is not. They twist the truth of God and the Bible to fit what they believe God to be without ever attempting to get to know God through His revelation to us. They wrongly conclude things about Him that are not in keeping with the character revealed throughout His Word and throughout history. We cannot allow people to morph God into something He is not. We are to lovingly refute those that contradict sound doctrine.

Expected Intentionality

Expect ResultsYou can listen to this message here.

Last week Peter looked to new things. He instructed us to be excited about the coming of the Lord as the heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire allowing God to usher in a new heaven and a new earth. It is a place of righteousness where authentic believers can be wholeheartedly sold out for Jesus without the negative influence of the false teachers and the mocking of the mockers. This morning, Peter draws a conclusion.

2 Pet. 3:14 says, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”

Conclusions are sometimes easy to spot in Scripture. Peter is on his initial approach to land this letter by saying, “Therefore, beloved.” The conclusion is based on what he has said in v. 1113. The new heavens and the new earth are what we are hastening to. Remember from last week, “looking for and hastening” means an eager anticipation, a hope to move quickly. We eagerly anticipate our new home, but we can’t sit around looking at the sky. We must zealously be about the work of the Lord and that means telling others about the hope we have. We ought to be known for our holy conduct and our godliness. Since we look for these things, God tells us through Peter, “Be diligent.” It means careful and conscientious. Be intentional about what we are doing as it relates to Christ. Paul gave us the mandate that in, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for man.” (Col. 3:23) In context Paul was talking about the relationship between slaves and their masters, but the application for us is still there. Employee/employer. Student/teacher. Child/parent. Athlete/coach. You can make many applications for this, but the truth remains we do things to please the Lord, not other people.

We sometimes forget that God is concerned with what happens in our daily lives. How we react to circumstances reflect the power of the Holy Spirit that we claim has taken residence in our lives. In his book Forgotten God, Frances Chan says on pages 32-33, 

Rom. 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” According to this verse, if I am a believer, the Spirit of God dwells in me. Paul reiterates that truth in 1 Cor. 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). Our bodies are the Spirit’s temple. Later we will delve more into what that means for us; but essentially, it’s that the Holy Spirit makes His home in our bodies. We are His place of dwelling. And this is the question I just can’t get around: If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? This may be a silly illustration, but if I told you I had an encounter with God where He entered my body and gave me a supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see an amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”? Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again and say that they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them?”

We have bought the lie that profession without transformation is okay. Since someone may claim to be a Christian, that’s seems to be good enough. Even though there may be no evidence of Christ, no fruit, no desire to be like Christ; they’ve said it, so that settles it. I acknowledge that we’re all at different places. Instead of engaging in real discipleship as a matter of pursuing Christ, it seems like it’s not even welcomed in the lives of many professing believers. Everything is cool as long as we agree, but don’t rock the boat. Everything is awesome as long as we don’t have any expectations of anyone. But the second that changes, we’re outta here. We have Christians that are zealously pursuing the American dream of safety and security here; laying up treasures here, participating in activities that have no bearing on eternity because we’ve taken the gift we’ve been given for granted, we’ve taken our destination for granted. Our attitude has become, “Well, I know I’m going there.” Many people in the church have forgotten the important truth Paul gave us in Phil. 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We’re to be intentional in our walk with Christ. We’re intentional in so many areas of our lives. We make sure to check the tide chart before going fishing. We get our cooler ready for the beach. We lay our kid’s school clothes out the night before. We study all the material so we can pass the test with the best possible grade. Unfortunately, many of us don’t practice that same intentionality with Jesus. We find it difficult to find the time to read our Bible. Since it’s hard to find time to read, we certainly can’t find the time to study it. We’re so busy with our lives during the week, that Sunday has become catch up day. We have become a people with little to no time management skills and misguided prioritization. We have fallen into Satan’s trap with frightening ease.

We’re to, “be diligent.” Diligent means conscientious in one’s work or duties; it means to hurry. People all over are on the grace bus that preaches it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’ve made a profession. Grace covers it all! NO! Peter says be diligent. What are we to be diligent about? We’re to hurry up; make every effort, “To be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.” Peter already said we’re to be holy and godly in our conduct in v. 11. Keep in mind the false teaching that Peter is refuting. The false teachers denied the second coming of Christ and therefore lived a life of liberty following after their own lusts and sensuality. That liberty presented a huge stumbling block to other believers because they intentionally led others astray from the truth of God’s Word and the Way of Truth through salvation. Peter continues to hammer the coming of Christ in an effort to show his readers that living in a certain manner today is reflective of the glory of God that exists within each authentic believer. This due diligence here hinges on the foundation Peter established in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 where he said, Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” His incredible conclusion to that is found in v. 10, Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” The key is in the verb tense. Practice is present tense and never stumble is future. It is conditional based on what we do.

Believers are, “To be found in peace, spotless and blameless.” Found is a judicial term that indicates a judgment – we find the defendant not guilty. We see this in other Scripture as well. In 1 Cor. 4:2 Paul says as stewards, we are to found trustworthy. John wept when no one was found worthy to open the book in Rev. 5:4. Peace here means completeness or well being. Don’t miss the significance; the only way to have true peace is to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. When that reconciliation is accomplished, it is not just possible; it is expected for us to be, “blameless and spotless.” This expectation is a contrast to the false teachers that were described in 2 Pet. 2:13 as, “stains and blemishes.” Again, we see this idea throughout Scripture. This doesn’t mean we are morally perfect or sinless. We should be progressing to look and act more and more like Christ because of the work He is doing on our lives. The expectation is that we live lives of holiness and godliness because of God’s influence in our lives. When you put it all together Peter is saying Christians will be found to be at peace with God because we’ve trusted in the finished work of Christ. As a result, we are righteous because He is righteous.

1 Thes. 5:23 says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”We are at peace because of Christ’s sacrifice and we enter into His presence with joy. This joy in Christ motivates us to share the unfathomable gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Let’s quit talking about it and do it.

 

 

New Expectations

NewYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us what was going to happen when Jesus returned on the Day of Judgment. He doesn’t waiver from the fact that Jesus’ return is going to happen despite what the false teachers and the mockers say. Mass destruction will occur and it will affect the heavens and the earth. This destruction is for the ungodly; as Christians, we will be protected. The best way to offer protection from the impending destruction is to tell people about Jesus so they can make a decision to follow Christ. This morning, Peter looks to new things.

2 Pet. 3:11-13 says, Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

Before he gets going, Peter offers a quick recap. Peter is very methodical in his arguments and would have made a great lawyer. In vs. 5-7, he presented three arguments against the mockers and why they’re incorrect in their conclusions. In vs. 8-9 he gave us the key to understanding the timeline of Jesus’ return. In v. 10 he explained what would happen to the heavens and the earth. After presenting all that evidence, he arrives at a conclusion in vs. 11-12. Since all these things are going to pass, Peter reiterates his expectations from 1:5-7. The delay in the return of Christ gives us more opportunities to live the life that is expected of us in order for the Holy Spirit to draw more people to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter says we ought to be a certain way. We ought to have holiness and godliness as a routine essence of our lives. There are too many people that profess a relationship with Christ that do not have any attributes of Christ. Over and over Peter, as well as others in Scripture, says it does matter how we act and what we look like and what we engage in and what we spend our time and money on. Notice in this verse Peter is referring to our conduct. Our conduct is a barometer of our spiritual lives. If we act ungodly, the reasonable conclusion is we are ungodly. 1 Tim. 6:11, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” The only way we can truly be godly is because of what Christ has done and what He does in our lives. The only way we can be holy is because God is holy. 1 Pet. 1:15, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” Holy means being dedicated to God; morally and spiritually excellent. Our standard is not the world or our friends. It’s not even others in the church; our standard is God; it is Jesus and we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live a life that glorifies God in all we think, say, and do. This is not some unattainable, lofty, pie in the sky idea. Every Christian must be pursuing godliness and holiness.

There’s something else we need to be doing so what’s next? Peter continues looking at the future by telling us what to do right now. In verse 12 Peter says, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!We must be looking to the future coming of the Lord, but it should affect us in the days that we live. Since Jesus is coming back and since we don’t know exactly when, we don’t have the luxury to sit on a mountain top somewhere staring at the clouds. The Thessalonians were confused about the second coming and Paul took some time in his letters to explain it. They thought they missed it and it affected their thinking and as a result, their behavior. We need to be, “Looking for and hastening for the day of God.” To help you understand what he saying, think about something you’re looking forward to. It could be the end of the work day, the arrival of a loved one, an upcoming birth, Christmas, something you’re anticipating. It affects your behavior: you look at the clock, you look out the window, you look at your watch. You just can’t wait and maybe you get butterflies in your stomach; you may not be able to sleep; there’s an excited nervousness because you just can’t wait. That’s the way we should be about the Lord’s return. Since we’re so excited and eagerly anticipating His return, our excitement should be infectious. The gravity of the second coming should push us to tell others about Christ and our lives should exemplify His transforming power so that others would be drawn to us and listen to us when we open our mouths and be engaged in true discipleship in the spirit of Matt. 28:19 as a church and 1 Pet. 3:15 as individuals.

Why be excited? Peter tells us in v. 13, But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” This is the new heavens and the new earth. These will be uncorrupted by a sinful humanity. Is. 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” We won’t long for our old earth. In Rev. 21:1 John said, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” What an incredible sight to behold. All the anticipation of eternity coming to pass in this moment. The awesomeness is found in Rev. 21:27, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This is a perfect place reserved for those that have made a decision for Christ.

We get so excited when our children make the honor roll or our team wins. We put such high emphasis on these things that are so temporary, but we are so blasé about the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven with the Trinity. We need to stop taking God for granted in all that He does for us and in us and through us. It’s time to take back the world.