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God’s Word – Divine or Human (Last Sermon at Fellowship Bible Church) August 16, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Old Testament, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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Most of my readers I do not know but you come by often. The sermon blog will continue but I will be at a new church, Grace Bible Church in Lansing, Michigan. I trust you will continue to check in for the weekly sermon.

Finally, to the members of Fellowship Bible Church in Castleton, Vermont I say, “Thank you for your generosity and graciousness. I trust that I have been as much a help to you as you have been to me.”
Divine or Human?
2 Peter 2:20-21

Introduction: It is appropriate today that the subject today is the Word of God. It was the advertisement written by the pulpit committee of this church that emphasized the teaching of the Word of God that drew me to apply to this church. Every good thing that has happened in this church during my time here can directly be connected through the transformation worked by the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person or persons. Also, every failure can directly be connected to disobedience to the Word of God in my life or in the life of some other person. I cannot think of an exception.

The reason every true spiritual success can be tied to the Word of God is simple. It is God’s Word and not my word or your word. It is from God. This is what Peter is reminding us of here. You can have confidence that God’s Word, in this case, the Old Testament and what had been written already of the New Testament, will change you because it is God’s Word.

“Peter, how do you know that this is God’s Word?”

Peter’s answer is found in verses 16-20. God’s Word is not confirmed by human inspiration but by divine signs (verses 16-20). Peter says in verse 16 that the message he declared was not cunningly devised, that is, it is not derived from human wisdom. Mankind has written many wonderful works of literature. When I read certain works of literature, I find them inspiring.

I own the history of the Civil War as written by Shelby Foote. He draws you into the conflict and makes you wish you could have been there to see with your own eyes the battles and events that he describes. His history is cunningly devised.

When I was in junior high school, we had an English teacher who would read Edgar Alan Poe, O. Henry, or Mark Twain. The gang of guys I sat with were not particularly literary and the language of some of them was very inferior but we found as she read to us that these men wrote things cunningly devised.

When you go to a play or a movie or watch a TV show, occasionally the words which are being spoken take over the movie and you forget the actors and become enthralled with the words. That is a wonderful experience, cunningly devised by men and women.

But human inspiration, no matter how cunningly devised is vastly inferior to the Word of God because only God’s Word is confirmed by divine signs. That is what Peter is trying to tell us in verses 17-19a. God’s Word is confirmed. Peter mentions specifically the transfiguration of Christ but there are many other examples. The events of Christmas confirmed the prophecies of Christ through the exactness of their miraculous fulfillment. The resurrection of Christ confirms along with the other miracles that He performed that He is the Messiah of the Scriptures. Jesus said to the doubters, if you do not believe my words, believe me because of my works.

When men write, there may be scientific or historic confirmation but when God writes, the confirmation is miraculous. That is why the apostles were given the ability to perform miracles and why on occasion, the early believers spoke in tongues, to confirm the Word of God.

God’s Word, unlike human inspiration, is worthy of an active faith (verses 19-20). That is why that confirmation is necessary. We need to know what we can believe. We need to know what is worthy of an active faith.

Charles Darwin wrote his books and people began to believe and put their faith in his theories. When they did, men changed. No longer did it really matter what we do. To survive as one of the strongest was the new meaning of life. God was no longer necessary. But Darwin’s theories are doubted even by evolutionist and have proven unworthy of active faith.

But God’s Word has brought spiritual liberty and freedom and high morals everywhere where it has been obeyed. Peter describes it beautifully. It brings light into darkness. Remember though that obedience to the Word of God means faith in Christ. Obedience to the Word of God is not keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule. Obedience is faith in Jesus Christ. That is what the Scriptures preach and teach and only through the Jesus of the Bible can one come to God (1 Peter 1:6-12).

God’s Word is disclosed clearly by God. Any human inspiration is a corruptive additive (verse 20). That is why I emphasize when I preach and teach that we must understand what God is saying through a careful but thorough reading of individual Scripture passages and their context. Great literary men are sometimes very obscure. You know they said something but you are not quite sure what they said. I remember going to a play once in Chattanooga. It was a relatively modern play. It was very funny, very literary, very cunningly devised. It was a lot of fun but I could not tell you what the playwright was trying to say because he was trying his hardest to say it in such a way that you could not truly understand it. But God speaks clearly. That does not mean that we always understand what God is saying. It is sometimes difficult because it was written during ancient times in ancient languages through ancient thought patterns for ancient readers and “most” of us really are not that ancient. But for those who take the time to simply read and study their Bibles as God’s Word through men to men, it reveals God clearly.

God’s Word is revealed only by the Holy Spirit’s working through holy men (verse 21). These men did not sit down and decide they were going to write Scripture. God decided they would write Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired them. He used their wisdom, He even used their language abilities but the words are His. If you study the chronologies of Chronicles, you will see that even the scribes, who wrote name after name after name, were well aware of the awesomeness of the task before them. They were penning God’s Word. Their motivations came from God, the message came from God, their meanings came from God. That is how that holy men through the Holy Spirit produced the holy Word of God.

This is a divine book. This summer we had the opportunity to memorize a section of God’s Word. Did you do it? It is the Word of God. It is not a Shakespearean sonnet or a political speech by Patrick Henry. Those are cunningly devised. It is not a lofty document like the Declaration of Independence or a beautiful New England description by Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson but the Word of God, worthy of faith, confirmed by miracles. What did you read this summer? What have you written down or memorized so that you would not forget it? Was it the Word of God or the words of man? Did you give yourself this summer to the Word of God or did you waste it on the cunningly devised inspiration of men? If you want light in the dark places in your life, turn to and learn the Word of God.

I am not saying that human wisdom has no value. It does and you should not ignore human words but give yourself to the Word. You have the autumn before you. Begin now! Read His Word! Hear His Word! Memorize His Word! Meditate on His Word! Study His Word! Feast on His Word!

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Guaranteeing Christian Success July 26, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Eternal Security, Falling Away, Judgment, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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Guaranteeing Christian Success
(2 Peter 1:5-11)

Since I will only be your pastor for about a month more, it is appropriate that we are going through 2 Peter during this time. As we will see in more detail next week, 2 Peter was Peter’s last message to the Jewish congregations for whom he felt responsible. Next week we will look at the main theme of his final message but this week we want to look at one of the main goals that Peter hoped to accomplish, that is the goal of guaranteeing Christian success. That has been one of my goals during the past years and one which I want to again emphasize, not as a recounting of the past but rather as an encouragement for the future. God stills wants each of you to be successful Christians.

Before I dive into the message I want to define for you, based on 2 Peter, what Christian success is. Christian success is living a life in which our faith is shown to be mature and worthy of an entrance into the presence of God. We will look later at the Scriptural basis for this definition but I want you now to engrave in your mind this condensed definition: Christian success is a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven.

A. The foundation of Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) are the promises through which we are partakers of the divine nature (verses 4b-5a). We have a glorious future ahead of us. Last week we did not look specifically from the Scriptures at these promises but it is important that we do so today, since they are the foundation for everything else that we will speak about. Second Peter 3:13 describes for us this promise, there will be “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This follows the destruction of the present heavens and earth and is the eternal state in which God’s people will live with Him for all eternity. It is eternal life lived in the righteousness of God. This is the reason why we need to live as successful Christians here on earth.

I was speaking with someone this past week about the early church in Jerusalem and the significance in their lives of their awareness that Christ could come at any time. They made the point that it is not surprising that they generously sold their property and shared the proceeds with the poor in their church. It is easy to be generous when you are convinced that you do not really need the money anyway.

In the same way, looking forward to our home in heaven is a prime motivation for living a successful Christian life. This is the foundation that we desire to build upon.

B. The daily provision for Christian success (a lifestyle worthy of entrance into heaven) involves the building of Christian character (verses 5-7). What we have listed here by Peter are the spiritual vitamins that we need to supplement our faith. “These things” as they are called guarantee Christian success. Before we look at what they produce, let us go down the list and understand what “these things”, these spiritual vitamins are.

Virtue – This word means moral excellence. In 1 Peter 2:9 it is translated “praises.” It is what we proclaim about God. “He is the rock, His work is perfect, and all His ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Verse 3 of our present chapter points out that it is by God’s virtue, by His holiness, by His righteousness that we are called to salvation and we need in our faith to live consistent with the moral excellence of God. That will make our faith mature.

Knowledge – We have not yet fully attained to the moral excellence of God, in part, because we lack a full knowledge of God. That is why Peter commands in 2 Peter 3:18 to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This involves knowing the Scriptures. Peter refers to the importance of proper knowledge of the Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:15-17.

Self-Control – A person who says I have faith but has no self-control has at best a weak faith. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. I mention that to remind us that these supplements to our faith are not produced by our own ability but rather through the working of God in our lives. Self-control is the discipline of the athlete aiming for the gold medal. He is disciplined in his preparations, disciplined in his food, disciplined in his sleep, disciplined in his relationships, disciplined in competition, disciplined after the competition. Paul describes self-control in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (that is, self-controlled) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

Perseverance – Peter describes this specifically for us in 1 Peter 2:20. James said that this was characteristic of Job’s suffering, he was patient. One might say that perseverance is self-control under duress. It is one thing to exercise self-control when everything is going well. It is something else to practice it when the world seems to be falling in on you.

Godliness – This is piety, reverence toward God. It is the outward exercise of religion that reveals the faith you have in God and the full knowledge that you have of God. We use the word as Peter uses the word virtue but the idea here is different. It describes my attitude towards God. We tend to shun this word, piety. We connect it with being strait-laced and without freedom, with rules and legalism. We connect it with being unpopular, which by the way, is absolutely correct. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 that those who desire to live godly (pious) in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. What God wants to make out of us will not naturally make us acceptable to the world. There will be a price to pay. A pious attitude towards God does not come naturally. Verse 3 tells us that piety or godliness comes to us through the power of God.

Brotherly Kindness (brotherly love) and Love (“agape“ love) – Sometimes we talk as if this type of love is inferior to “agape” love but that is not the picture of the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:22 indicates that “agape” love follows brotherly love while 1 Thessalonians 4:9 indicate that brotherly love arises out of “agape” love. Jesus Himself used the two terms synonymously when asking Peter if he loved Him. What is the difference? Brotherly specializes on our relationships to other believers. “Agape” love expands itself to all others. One involves loving your brother, the other includes loving your enemy. Both are vitamin supplements to our faith.

1. When we supplement our faith with these things, what will happen? An abundant daily provision of these spiritual vitamin supplements produces fruitfulness in the knowledge of Christ (verse 8). Now I use the word, daily because it is a good way to describe diligence. I have found that I learn better when I learn everyday than when I cram for a test. I lose weight and get fit when I daily exercise. My relationships with those whom I contact daily are much different than with those with whom I have contact yearly or monthly or even weekly.

Again, near the end of the book, we find a description of what a fruitful, mature Christian is. Second Peter 3:14 says we need to “be diligent” when He comes “to be found by Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” That is a Christian who has supplemented His faith with holy vitamins. Remember though, this is not a self-improvement regimen but rather a response of faith to our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2. A lack of daily provision produces spiritual sickness (verse 9). What happens if I do not develop moral excellence in my life? What if I do not apply myself to knowing Christ through His word in my life? What if I do not practice self-control and patience and piety? What if I do not love my neighbors and do not love my enemies? So what? Verse 9 describes a terrible spiritual illness. It is an extreme near-sightedness, so extreme that one would be considered legally blind. He cannot see. Sadder still is what happens when one cannot see. He or she sometimes forget what things looked like, in this example, whether one has been forgiven or not.

Whatever you may believe about verses 10-11, verse 9 makes one thing clear. This is a spiritual disaster. This is someone who obviously knows the truth and has professed the truth but has not lived the truth and becomes blind to any effect that the truth may have had on him. This is a horrifying thing.

3. A diligent daily provision guarantees an eternal provision (verses 10-11). This is where the passage gets especially difficult. There are basically two possible interpretations.

First, if you do not do these things, you will lose your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

Second, if you do not do these things, then there is no proof of your salvation because your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast.

There is a third option but it really does not fit in this epistle. If you do not do these things, then you are a poor excuse for a Christian who will lose reward. Now the Bible teaches that believers can lose rewards but that is not what is being talked about in 2 Peter. Look at 2 Peter 2:20-22. Peter seems to be talking about the same type of people as in chapters 1 and 3. People who had the truth of the gospel and could lose it. Peter says that these people are worse off than they were before they were saved. Now if option three were possible then that would mean that losing reward as a believer in heaven is worse than being unsaved and condemned to hell. That does not seem very likely to me.

Now I am convinced that option one is not correct. When God saves someone, He saves them forever and He gives them eternal life. Obviously, though this book teaches apostasy is possible. Peter believed that most of his hearers were believers (see 2 Peter 1:12) but he recognized that some were in danger of turning from their faith. I do not believe, however, that he believed that a true believer could lose his salvation.

My reason for this is found in chapter 2, verses 5-9. Peter uses two examples of people who were believers, who were rescued from immediate wrath by the hand of God. The first was Noah. Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. Ezekiel and the book of Hebrews make it clear that he was delivered by his righteousness. Noah was not perfect. Later in life he committed the sin of drunkenness and there were consequences for that but he remains in biblical history an example of righteousness.

The second person was Lot. In contrast to Noah, Lot is no one’s model of how a Christian should live yet Peter called him a righteous man. Three times, in fact, he does so, as if Peter realized that his example was open to attack. Lot, however, is an example of how that God knows how to deliver the godly (one of the attributes of a Christian character) from tribulation while at the same time reserving the unjust for the day of judgment. If anyone should have lost his salvation, Lot should have but God recognized Lot as a true believer and delivered him from judgment. Lot is a very strong argument for the eternal security of a believer.

That does not mean though that a believer is allowed to live carnally in this world. That is not Peter’s argument at all. Peter is teaching the second option, that is, if you do not do these things, these works, then there is no proof of your salvation. There is then a real danger that your calling and election is not sure, that is, steadfast. There is a real danger that you will be easily deceived by the false prophets that are always present and that you will reject the truth of Christ and be doomed. That was the concern of Peter. Believers who do not supplement their faith with good works may not be true believers and they need to be reminded of some things and in that reminding, they will be stirred up by the knowledge of Christ through which the transforming power presents or bestows to us all things necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

That was Peter’s passion for his people. That is my passion also for you. That is the passion of every pastor for his people. Warren Wiersbe tells of “…John Welsh, the son-in-law of the famous [Scottish reformer] John Knox. Welsh often left his bed in the middle of the night, wrapped himself in a warm plaid, and interceded for the people of his parish. When his wife would beg him to go back to sleep, he would say, ‘I have the souls of three thousand [in the village of Anwoth] to answer for and I know not how it is with many of them.’”

With heads bowed and eyes closed, the invitation is two-fold this morning. Are you a believer? Is Christ your Savior? Are you trusting him alone for salvation? Peter says that salvation is only possible through faith in Christ. Do you truly know who Jesus is? God who became man and lived in righteousness in this world and died demonstrating the love and righteousness of God in that He atoned for your sin. He lives today waiting for you to trust Him for salvation. Will you not trust Him today?

The second part of this invitation is for believers. Are you putting your faith into practice? Are you supplementing your faith with the things listed by Peter? Through these things come stability and steadfastness in faith. Where do you need to strengthen you faith? In knowledge of the Word, in self-control, in brotherly love? Begin today. Do not wait. Do not drift. Strengthen your faith through your daily life so that when Christ comes He will find you walking worthy of Him.

Next week: Sermon title and text: If I Could Only Preach One Sermon… 2 Peter 2:12-19

How would Peter define what a Christian is (2 Peter 1:1-4)? July 19, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Faith, Jesus, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Second Peter, Sermons.
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What is a Christian Anyway (2 Peter 1:1-4)?

When we were missionaries in Germany, we were brought in contact with a group of asylum seekers from an Islamic country. A few were sincere seekers after the truth but many wanted to convert to Christianity so that they might start a new life in a new country. In order to do this, they needed to convince immigration officials that they were truly Christian. They would come to us with lists of questions concerning the religious holidays of Christianity. Others sought baptism as a way of becoming officially Christians. It did not take long for most of them to realize that we were not going to be much help to them and they fell away. They fell away because they did not understand what it means to be a Christian.

What we are asking today is not how one becomes a Christian, although we will also be looking at that. Nor are we discussing what a Christian looks like and does in his everyday life. We will be looking at that question next week. Asked another way the question is this, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

A Christian is one who belongs to Christ. When Peter begins this letter, he identifies himself by name and makes it clear that he is a Christian, that is, that he belongs to Christ. How does he do this?

First, he says, “I am a bondslave of Christ.” A Christian is a slave belonging to Christ. We are His slaves (verse 1a). Romans 6 explains how that we were in bondage to sin but that through the death and resurrection of Christ we become slaves of righteousness. This means that we now do what Christ wants us to do. In 1 Peter 2:13-16, Peter explains how that works in a specific situation. There was the temptation for believers to refuse to submit to the government because Jesus was their king. Peter makes it clear that our slavery to Christ’s will compels us to obey the government. In other words, a slave of Jesus Christ is one who does the will of Jesus Christ. Peter states clearly that he does that will of God, not his will and not the will of any man but rather the will of God.

Secondly, Peter claims to be a servant. He uses the word apostle, that is, a sent messenger. The word “bondslave” makes it clear that Peter does the will of Christ. The word “apostle” tells us what Christ’s will actually is, to go with a message from Christ. In the same way, we are Christ’s servants (verse 1a). We do not all hold the office of an apostle but we are all sent messengers.

We have heard this morning from Susan Blodgett about her missionary work on the college campus and her recent missionary trip to the Dominican Republic. We support her financially. We pray for her. We rejoice in the work that God has given her and the part in the work which we have. We are no different than her, however. We are also bondslaves and as bondslaves we are responsible to do the will of God and the will of God is that we witness, that we serve as messengers of the gospel of Christ. That is our commission as servants. That is our task as slaves. In John 20:21, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” We are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, according to the book of Acts, for the purpose of being witnesses throughout the whole earth. In Matthew 28, Jesus said all authority is given to me. For that reason, “therefore” go and teach, that is, make disciples. We are sent out with a message under the authority of our master to follow the model of our master empowered by the Spirit of our master. That is what a Christian is. He or she is a messenger, an apostle.

We are His called ones (verses 1b, 3b). This is referred to in verse 1 through the word “obtain.” It is the word used when they cast lots letting God determine their course of action. Peter says here, “Every Christian is a Christian because of God’s determination.” Peter is an apostle who walked with Jesus Christ who was given the honor of leading the church at Jerusalem but his faith is exactly like our faith. Our faith is equal to his in value and in honor. And He obtained His faith like we obtained ours, by the grace of God.
This faith is also obtained by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:24-26 explains what this means, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What both Paul and Peter are saying is this, although one is a Christian by grace, it is a free gift, it was not free. Jesus Christ died, demonstrating the righteousness of God through His execution for sins, making it possible to obtain salvation by faith in Jesus. In other words, if one says he believes in Jesus but refuses to believe that Jesus is the only means of salvation, that person is not a Christian. He may speak of Jesus as His Savior but without faith in His death for my sins, He is not my Savior but rather my judge.

This is the description of the calling that we find in the last part of verse 3. Five times in 1 Peter it is written that believers are called but today I only want to call your attention to one of those passages, 1 Peter 2:9-10. Peter writes that we are called out of darkness into His marvelous light so that we might obtain mercy. Christians are called ones. We are called to faith by mercy and grace through the righteous, the just death of the Son of God. Just and righteous not because He got what He deserved but just and righteous because He got what I deserved.

Since we are called with such a merciful calling, it is no wonder that we should submit ourselves to slavery in the will of God, to service in telling the message of His mercy and righteousness in His death on the cross.

This calling, this slavery, this servant hood is great and marvelous but a Christian is much, oh so much much more, than just belonging to Christ. A Christian belongs to a body, the body of Christ.

We are called to a common faith through knowledge of Jesus Christ (verses 1-3). We have already seen that our faith is the same faith as Peter’s faith both in value and honor. The phrase “with us” may seem small but it underlines that our calling is not just an individual calling but a calling of a people. Look again at 1 Peter 2:9. God does not call Robert Talley to be a Christian. Now He worked in my life as an individual and He saved me individually but He called us to a common faith through Jesus Christ. Perhaps verse 5 can explain this concept better. We are his building. Many individual stones but one building.

We are called by a unique Savior (verses 1b and 3b). The body of Christ is inseparable from its Head. It has no sustainability without its Head. We have already seen that we are called together into one body through His righteous death. We are also called by His glory and virtue.

His glory according to 1 Peter 1:11, 21 is what happened after his death, His glorious, bodily resurrection and His even more glorious ascension to heaven to sit in authority on the right hand of God. There is none like Him. His glory is like that of no other.

His virtue is also like none other. Again in 1 Peter 1 we have a description of His virtue. Verse 19 describes Him as a lamb without blemish and without spot. There was nothing inappropriate much less sinful about Him. He truly is like no other.

It is the uniqueness of Christ that is our common bond. He lived like no other man, He suffered like no other man, He was glorified as no other man. He is our head. As we saw last Wednesday night from Ephesians 4:1, 4 the knowledge of our calling by this unique Christ is the foundation for part in the body of Christ and to not commit ourselves to other believers is unworthy of our calling in this unique Christ.

We are called based on great promises (verse 4a). These promises have great value. They are precious. These promises make it possible for us to be partakers of the divine nature. You see, belonging to Christ, being a Christian is more than going to heaven, it is more than being forgiven, I along with every other believer become a partaker of God’s divine nature. That is what it means to belong to the body of Christ. We share a common faith based on our knowledge of a unique Savior but we share more. We share much more. We share His nature. Christ being are head is not just getting corporate strength and direction from Him. His nature is our nature. How is that possible? The beginning of verse 3 tells us how. By His divine power. How is it that we have God’s nature? How is it that we can be one body in Christ? By His divine power through the knowledge of Him.

This is why you should integrate yourself fully into the body of Christ as practiced within a local church. If you are a believer in Christ and do not identify with a body of believers, do not integrate yourself fully with them, bear grudges against them, you are denying the common bond that we already have. Could you imagine a building where the stones are constantly pulling away from each other or pushing each other away? You know that such a building would collapse. Yet many believers claim to be Christians but refuse to commit themselves both formally and informally to other believers. As we saw in the book of James this morning in Sunday School, such a refusal to commit to other believers ultimately brings our Christianity into question.

A Christian belongs to a new world order (verse 4b). Being a Christian, belonging to Christ, belonging to His body is radically different. It is described in Scriptures as a separate reality.

Our old nature is corrupt, that is, doomed to destruction. The next chapter of 2 Peter describes this corruption in more detail. It is not a pretty picture (2 Peter 2:12-19). They are like rabid animals hunted down so that they might be destroyed (verse 12). The lust of the human nature is like rabies. It drives the animal to its own destruction. The animal no more fears that which can harm it. It is doomed.

But our new nature is divine. Could you imagine an animal, mad with rabies, doomed to death and dangerous to all with whom it comes in contact and then through the divine power that comes through the knowledge of Christ and through faith in Christ escapes the destructive disease and becomes not just a healthy animal but a partaker in the nature of God? It is beyond my comprehension but that is what a Christian is.

He belongs to Christ now.
He belongs to the body of Christ now.
He belongs to a new world order, a new realm of reality.

Do you belong to Christ? If you do, then you are a Christian. You belong to His body, you belong to a new world order. Do you live like it? There is nothing stranger than person who is not rabid acting as if he was. Do you walk worthy of your calling in Christ? Have you integrated yourself with the body or do you live the spiritual life of a lone wolf?

Perhaps you do not belong to Christ. The knowledge of Christ and the faith in Him produced by that knowledge will immediately make you a member of His body and a partaker of His divine nature. Will you trust Him today? Your choice is between two types of slavery. The slavery of corruption and destruction described in 2 Peter 2:12-17 or the slavery of righteousness through the death of Christ. Trust Him today!

“Lord, Where Are You Going?” A sermon appropriate for Ascension Day January 18, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Ascension, Body of Christ, John's Gospel, Messiah, Peter the Apostle, Religion, Sermons.
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“LORD, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

John 13:31-38

It is a cool spring night. The fall before during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus openly proclaimed that He was going away (John 7:33). Now this was a strange statement for someone who claimed to be the Messiah, for someone who is going to overthrow the Roman oppressors and sit on the throne of David. John 7:35-36 tells us how that they speculated that Jesus would go out among the Jews dispersed throughout the Roman empire and begin to teach the heathen.

The disciples were not much better. When Jesus again said, I am going away, Peter’s question was simple, “Lord, where are you going?”

I. Jesus had said, “I am going to be glorified” (verses 31-32).

A. Jesus glorified the Father in His crucifixion (verse 31b-32a). Just a few days before in John 12:27-33, Jesus explained that through His death, the Father would be glorified. We sometimes sing a song to the effect that we were in the mind of Christ when He died on the cross but ultimately Jesus Christ died so that the Father would be glorified. God hates sin and, as we heard last week in Sunday School, God hates sinners but He sent His Son to die for those sinners so that He might be glorified. What most honors God, more than all the acts of creation or judgment or benevolence put together is that His Son came to die that sinners might be made righteous. That is how that Jesus glorified the Father and, I might add, that is also the beginning of the glorification of Jesus, the Son of God by the Father (John 17:1-4).

B. As wonderful as the glory of the cross is, that is not the main point that Jesus is making here when He says, “I am going away.” It is a necessary part of His future glory but this glory is beyond the cross, beyond even the resurrection. The Father glorified the Son in His ascension into heaven, that is, in His exaltation to the throne of God. (verses 31a and 31b).

Peter did not really understand what Jesus was talking about and that is why he asked, “Lord, where are you going?” Fifty days later, Peter made it very clear that he understood what it was that Jesus meant. In Acts 2:33-36, Peter explains in detail how that the Father glorified Jesus Christ.

C. This double glorification is necessary for our eternal salvation (John 17:1-5 and 1 Peter 1:17-21).

II. Jesus is going soon and will not be found or followed (verses 32b-33, 36-37). The word “seek” here is an important word. It means more than wondering where something is at and looking around to see if you can find it. Desire is implied here. You see, as Wesley put it in the Christmas carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” Jesus is the “Desire of the nations.” He is the Messiah. Even those who rejected Him, who crucified Him, they also desired Him, they also sought Him, but they did not recognize Him as the one for whom they were seeking.

A. This statement had immediate emotional impact (verses 36-37, John 14:1). It caused Peter to ask questions. It troubled them. The one whom they had sought, whom they had desired, had come. He had called them and they had followed Him. They recognized Him as the Messiah. They knew that He was the Sent One, the Son of God. And now He is going and refuses to tell them where He is going. This was very hard for them to accept. In fact, Peter says, Lord, you can take me. I’ll go. If it cost me my life, I will go. These are questions of deep, troubled emotion. This is not an intellectual exercise.

B. This statement had eternal implications (Compare John 8:21 with John 13:36). This is where the main difference between the rulers of the Jews and the disciples is to be found. Jesus told both groups that they would seek Him, that they would desire Him. The rulers of the Jews, He said, would seek Him, that is, would seek the Messiah, but that they would die in their sin and would not be able to come to where Jesus is. The disciples also would seek Jesus and would not at first be able to follow Jesus Christ but they would in the future be able to follow. Why? Because they recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Sent One, the Son of God.

III. Jesus has left us with an important command to obey while He is gone (John 13:34-35, 37-38).

A. This command is new…

…in that it had not been obeyed (Compare verses 34-35 with 1 John 2:7-11). The command to love your neighbor, to love your brother is part of the key command of the Old Testament law – Leviticus 19:18. but it had been ignored. When Jesus came along and He began to preach and practice love for one another, it was received as radical and new, not because it was not known but because it was not often previously practiced and in the religious leadership of that day was hardly practiced at all.

B. Obedience to this commandment is modeled for us by Jesus Christ (verse 34b). This command is not only new because it had not been obeyed previously but also because it had finally the perfect model, Jesus Christ. Now we already have earlier in this chapter an illustration of this love through the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus Christ (see especially verses 14-15). We understand that to love one another demands that we submit ourselves as slaves to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is, however, another point about the washing of their feet that illustrates for us how we are to love each other. Not only does it involve humbling ourselves before one another but also involves honoring the one who we are serving. Not everyone had their feet washed in that day. No one ever washed a slave’s feet. He washed feet but there was no one to wash his. The washing of feet was reserved for the honored guests of the house. In other words, if I am going to love you as Christ has loved me, not only must I humble myself to the servant’s position but I must also exalt you to the honored position.

Almost every time when I preach a strong sermon on the necessity of loving one another, not just in this church, but throughout my ministry, someone asks me how? Again, we know what it means to love one another, to humble ourselves and to exalt one another. What we do not recognize is how to do this. A few minutes after Jesus spoke to words of John 13:34, He returned to this theme in John 15:12. John 15:9-10 tells us how we can love one another as Jesus loves us. We must abide in His love as He abides in the Father’s love. John 15:5 points out that unless we abide in Christ, we are powerless. That includes especially our love for one another. Are there practical things that you can do? Yes. Ephesians 4 gives us a whole list of practical ways to love one another. It begins though with Christ enabling us. Without Christ’s help, we cannot love one another and to the extent that I do not love my brother and sister in Christ is the proof that I am not abiding in Christ as I should.

C. To ignore this commandment is to set ourselves up for a spiritual trap (Compare verses 37-38 with John 21:15-17). Peter is an excellent example of someone who followed Christ but had problems loving his brothers, his fellow disciples. We find in John 13 that he still must learn to obey this commandment. Is He a believer? Yes. Is he abiding in Christ as he should? Absolutely not. Here is a man who is more concerned about proving his loyalty and his usefulness to Christ than exalting his fellow disciples above himself. Peter paid a price for his powerlessness to love. He fell into the trap of Satan. He denied Christ. Not once. Not twice but rather three times.

When you look at John 21:15-17 and remember the events and the words of both Peter and Jesus in the upper room, we find that Jesus visited one last time this theme of love for Christ and for His people before He ascended to heaven.

“Peter,” he said. “Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord! I love you.”

“Peter, if you love me, follow my example, feed my sheep. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends. Peter, give your life for my sheep, for your brethren. If you do that, then people will know that you are my disciple.

Peter was willing to show his loyalty through death. Jesus wanted to world to see Peter’s loyalty through his life, specifically, through his love for his fellow believers.

In 1 Peter 2:22, after that Jesus described the glorification of Jesus Christ by the Father, Peter follows Jesus pattern and commands the believers to love one another. Peter learned his lesson well. Although it took a little time, he came to the point where he understood the connection between his salvation and his relationship to his brothers and sisters in Christ. Have you understood that connection and how are you putting it in practice?

NEXT WEEK: “LORD, HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WAY?” from John 14:1-7

Links to Sermons on Dorcas and the Surrounding Context October 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Links, Peter the Apostle, Prayer, Sermons.
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An Encouraging Sermon from John Piper

The Later Ministry of Peter from Ray Stedman

Sermon on the Early Church from Frederick Robertson

Second Peter 1:2-2:2 (How do we know the truth?) July 8, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Faith, False Teachers, Forgiveness, Gospel, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Peter the Apostle, Romans, Scripture Memorization, Second Peter, Sermons.
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We continue to learn Romans 6:1-13 during these summer months.  I would like for us to think on verses 5-8. 

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.7  For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”

Paul says that there are some things that we know. He says that we are certain of the resurrection because we know that our old man was crucified with Christ, that our sinful body was done away with. How though can we be sure? He repeats this truth in verse 8 when he says that if we died with Christ, we can be convinced that we will live with Him. Again, the question is this, “How do we know?” His reply might be, because we know that the resurrected Christ will die no more. How though can we be sure? 

THIS QUESTION ABOUT TRUTH IS CURRENT! 

Tomorrow as we hold the memorial service for Ron French, this question will be uppermost in some minds, “How can we know that what God has said (about eternity in this case) is true?”

We have the answer in 2 Peter 1:20-21. Let us read these two verses and then we will answer the question, “How do we know?”

“…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Peter begins this letter by pronouncing a special blessing on his readers. We find the beginning of this blessing in 1:2. This blessing is based on knowledge. Not just any knowledge but the full knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter then goes on to explain what exactly this full knowledge produces in the life of the believer so that those who are reading the book will understand both the blessing of this knowledge and their responsibility to it.

FULL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST SHOWS ITSELF IN OUR CHARACTER.

1.     This knowledge produces fruit (1:2-15). This is not theory but reality put into practice. The knowledge of God produces salvation and it produces the type of life that is different from that of the world.

a.      Verses 1-4 tell us about the eternal fruit that is produced by the Word of God. Although I will be talking about eternal fruit of the future and earthly fruit in our present lives, I hope you will understand as Peter does, that the two are inseparable. Look at verse 3. Peter speaks of that which pertains to life and godliness. Both of them are produced by the power of God by the means of the knowledge of God.

b.     Verses 5-7 tell us about the earthly fruit that is produced by the Word of God. Not only is the gospel of Christ the power that produces salvation, it is also the power that produces a godly life.

·        Why then do believers not live a godly life? Why do they not add to their faith, virtue and to their virtue, knowledge until it culminates in the love of God revealed in their daily lives? It is likely because the power of God does not work in them as it should because they have shunned the knowledge of Christ. Someone asked me several months ago what the verse meant that says that if we will not forgive our brother, neither will our Father in heaven forgive us. This is the explanation. If the gospel does not transform your way of living then it is very unlikely that your heart has been transformed. So if you never develop as a Christian to the point where you can forgive those who have sinned against you, then it is likely you have never experienced the power of God for salvation.

·        This brings us to a second question? What is my part in producing godliness? If I am incapable of producing godliness, why then am I commanded to do so? This is why the Word of God is necessary. You see, it is the power of God that produces godliness just as it is the power of God that produces salvation and eternal life but in both cases this power is set in motion by the Word of God and we respond to it by faith. This is the difference between dead works and faith. Dead works looks at the rules and says, “I can do that.” Faith looks at the promises and says, “God can do that for me,” and then responds by striving to do what God has promised to do within me. Those promises that we look at in the Word of God are like a carrot dangling from a stick luring us away from sin and leading us in the path of godliness (HT: John Piper). It is not by my power to walk in that path but it is by my assent. It is not my capability but it is my responsibility to accept and act upon the truth.

WHEN WE BEAR SPIRITUAL FRUIT, GOD’S WORD IS CONFIRMED.

c.     Verses 8-15 tell us about the necessity of spiritual fruit. We are assured by the Word of God as well as by recognizing God’s work in our heart and life. To continue strong in faith, it is absolutely necessary to be strengthened by the Word of God. I am not sure how far down the road of destruction one can go but it seems that it is possible that one can live in rejection of the Word of God to such a point that his spiritual eyesight is damaged (verse 9). In fact the implication of verse 10 is that those who have no fruit have no salvation.

GOD’S TRUTH IS NOT ONLY CONFIRMED BY OUR CHARACTER BUT ALSO BY EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS. 

2.     We know the truth by the confirmed word (1:16-18). Peter was not a moralist. He did not say I am going to tell you what to do over and over and over again until you get it. Peter said I am going to tell you what I have seen. He was an eyewitness. He was not talking about what he had heard from someone else but was speaking from his own personal experience. The confirmation of the truth of the Word of God is very important (Hebrews 2:1-4; 1 John 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15). That is what produces assurance of salvation as well as a holy life.

·        Sometimes someone will tell me about some experience they have that they accredit to God. Sometimes, the experience, although totally foreign to anything that I have ever experienced seems to not only be consistent with the Word of God but also to be evidenced by godliness in the life of the person who experienced it. As long as they do not lift that experience to the level of revelation from God or inspiration by God, then I can say nothing against it. Often though, there are those who tell me about an experience they have had and they attribute that experience to God and I know by their lives that God could have nothing to do with it. If He did their lives would be different. I have no confidence in their experience not because of the experience but because it does not confirm the truth of the Word of God. If your experience does not confirm the clear truth of the Word of God, then your experience is suspect.

·        Peter was different. He was not a perfect man. He was flawed but His experience with Christ changed him and now as he is coming to the end of his life, he writes and tells these people, you need to be reminded of the truth of the message of Jesus Christ. That will keep you from sin! That will establish you in the truth! It is interesting that he does not tell about the resurrection or the ascension of Christ into heaven but rather of the transfiguration, the time when Peter saw Christ in His majesty. Why? Peter understood that was the experience he had with Christ that best describes the second coming (verse 16).

WHAT IS IT THAT FRUITFUL LIVES AND EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS CONFIRM? 

3.     We know the truth by fruitful lives and by confirming testimony but first and foremost we know the truth by the prophetic word of God (1:19-2:2). This is what was confirmed by the eyewitnesses, the prophetic word of God. This may (or may not) imply predicting the future although the predictive prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ concerning the Messiah coming in power and majesty are certainly foremost in the mind of Peter as well as his Jewish readers.

a.      A prophet never spoke his own message. It was always the message of God that he spoke and that message when believed would bring light (1:19-21).

·        “The content of the Bible is revelation. The process by which that content was written down is called inspiration. And it wasn’t a high level of human activity, it wasn’t even a high level of religious human activity. Men were in the process but it didn’t originate with them and it didn’t come from their desire and their will, they were used as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit and enabled to speak from God. They spoke divine words. God used them. It was their personality. It was their background, some of their insights, their experiences, their perceptions, but every word was the word of God. (Macarthur)”

b.     A false prophet not only speaks his own message but it brings destruction on those who believe it (2:1-2).

WARNING! ALL THAT IS TOLD IS NOT TRUTH. 

There are a lot of wrong voices crying to be heard. These voices are described in 2 Peter 2:1-2. We find out two important things about these wrong voices, the false prophets.  

First, they have always been around. Peter quickly moves into his present day but he begins by saying, “Yes, we have the Word of God but do not forget, the false prophets are from ancient times also.” Just because something is old does not make it honest or true. What makes truth is not age or lack of it but a reliable source and Peter says that the Holy Spirit speaking through men is the only reliable source of truth. 

Secondly, they deny and reject Jesus Christ. It is not about believing in God. It is about trusting Christ. He is after all the only way to God. It is not about doing good works to please God. Good works deny the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross. It is not about the traditions of men but about the truth of Christ. How then do you know the truth? Certainly, you can look at what God has done in the lives of believers. That is evidence of the power of the knowledge of God. If you are a believer, you know now that God has given you the power to bear fruit. Strive to do it. It is very clear what the fruit should be. Make your life correspond to that fruit.

There are also the eyewitness testimonies that confirm the truth of the Word of God. Peter is one of those. Ultimately, though you are going to have to put your faith and trust in the promises of God for yourself. Only then can your way be lit to salvation in this life and in the life to come.