The Light is Shinning

Our world is overwhelmed with darkness. 

Today, all of North America will experience an eclipse.  Some will experience a total eclipse.  That is, at some point, the day will be like the night.  You will be able to see stars.  Birds will sing their evening songs.  Crickets will chirp – or whatever it is they do.    And for a brief moment in time, darkness will cover our land when there is usually light.

While this is a spectacular sight and reminds us of the glory of the God of creation, it also reminds us that, in our current condition, our world is covered with darkness.  In this darkness we see hate and horrible acts of violence we’ve witnessed recently in Charlottesville, in Spain, and in Finland.  And, as most of you know, unimaginable horrors are ongoing every day.

Some of this darkness is familiar to you.  Perhaps you know how Jairus felt when he had to leave his twelve-year-old daughter who was dying to search for a miracle worker named Jesus.  Or perhaps you know how the woman with the issue of blood felt as she lived in shame and pain for twelve years.  She had exhausted all of her resources on possible solutions only to finder herself worse.  In desperation, she also went in search of the miracle worker Jesus (see Mark 4).  And we can all attest to the darkness of sin, shame, sickness, and death that we deal with on a daily basis.

We might ask a question like this today…

“Where is the light?  Where is hope?”

I think the Apostle John would quickly answer, “I have the answer.”

“The Light” and “Hope” is a person who existed before the darkness of sin, shame, and death covered this earth.  When he came into this world, I saw him, touched him, listened to him, and now I proclaim him to you so that he might be your light and hope.”

Last Sunday we looked at verses 1-3:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Thanks to the Apostle John, we came to this conclusion about the identity of Jesus…

Jesus is the eternal, preexistent, now incarnate Word and one-of-a-kind Son of the Father who is himself God. [i]

The Bible witnesses to one God who has eternally existed in three persons – the in-generate Father and the generated Son and Spirit.  There is enough unity within the God-head that we affirm he is one God.  Yet there is enough diversity within the Godhead that we affirm three Persons who have eternally existed and relate to one another.[ii]

The Word that has eternally existed, according to verse 14, “took on flesh and dwelt among us.”  And it appears John calls Jesus the Word because – “…in his coming, and working, and teaching, and dying, and rising – He was the final and decisive Message [Word] of God.[iii]

So, if someone were to ask you, “Who is God?  What has he said?  What does he want?”  Our answer is: “Look at the Son – his life, his ministry, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection.

Do you hear what God is saying through, with, and in his Son Jesus Christ?

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

Since the Word is the source of everything that exists, it makes since that “in him was the essence of life” and that life was the “light of men” created in his image.

This Wednesday a couple of us from the church were blessed to witness to three teenagers.  The first thing they wanted to know was whether or not I supported Trump.  Then one of them wanted to know how we knew God existed.  One of the things we pointed to was this:  Here we are – three teenagers and two adults, living, breathing, heart beating, conversing with each other …about God.

Now, the fact that there is life (living & breathing) and light (an awareness of our existence and purpose) reveals God’s existence because he himself is the source of that life and light – both natural (life and light/understanding) and supernatural (eternal life and heavenly understanding).

You see, In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul said that God who made everyone also determined the time and place they would live.  That means you!  …So that they would seek God and feel their way towards him and find him.  Paul says that he is actually not far from us for “In him we live and move and have our being” (see Acts 17:26-28).

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Many people would make the opposite argument today:  “Since the darkness seems to be overwhelming, there must be no God.”

Sometimes I come to the church at night and, instead of turning on the lights, I turn on my phone light and use that to see where I’m going.  And while that doesn’t light up the entire place (in fact it’s a very small light), when I turn it on, every time, without exception, around my phone, the darkness retreats.  It’s an amazing thing!  Oh, it’s a small light.  And you would think that in a room as large as the sanctuary that that amount of darkness would overpower a small light, but every time…the darkness cannot overcome the light.

So too, God has been revealing himself to a world full of human sin, shame, demonic oppression, and death, and the darkness has not been able to extinguish the light.

Notice just how dark the world had become: 

So dark God had to send someone to point to the light…

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

God sent John (the Baptist) before the arrival of Christ and, true to any real witness of Christ, John did not point to himself but to Jesus Christ as the answer to the dark problems sin, shame, and death.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Although we may know the answer…I think it’s helpful here if we stop and ask…

Why did he come? 

He came to overcome the darkness.

But notice, it doesn’t appear to be an immediate victory.    

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

He came to his own creation:  The wind and the waves listened to him.  The water supported him.  But his own people declared, “We will not have this man rule over us!”  His own people shouted, “Crucify him!”

And while it appears the darkness is winning, John would say something to the effect of, “The match has been struck.”  For, in 1 John 2:8 he would declare…

“…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

Today, how are we to make sense of the significance of the true light which came into our dark world to live, minister, teach, die, and rise from the grave?  What does John want us to take away from this?

Two things:

First,

Those who reject Jesus (life & light) remain in darkness and will pass away with this evil age. 

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).

“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48).

Second,

Those who receive Jesus (life & light) become children of God and part of the kingdom that will be established forever.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).

How then should we respond?

(1) Receive him.

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Come as you are.”  The idea is, “It doesn’t matter…jeans, t-shirt, suit…come as you are…problems…burdens…come as you are…no need to try to clean up or fix things before you come to Jesus…just come to Jesus…he’ll fix you.”

And, that’s good theology.

But better theology is this:  “Come as you are,” yes…but also, “Take him as he is.”  I find this strange – that in Mark 4:36 the disciples left the crowd and boarded their boat and “…they took him [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was (Mark 4:36).

The Apostle John wants us to believe in Jesus.  He wants us to receive Jesus.  But we can only truly receive Jesus when we receive him just as he is…as he truly is.  The crowds loved him!  They pressed upon on him in order to be cured of their physical diseases.  They pressed upon him in order to be blessed with food for their stomach.  But when he opened his mouth to speak, the crowds were divided and people went home…

Many things Jesus said were hard to hear:  He said things like, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples’ (John 8:31).

Are you abiding in his word?  His words are not always easy.  But Peter would say, “Where else would we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life” (see John 6:68).

(2) Find your life in him. 

In John 12:25 Jesus said, “He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life, in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Paul said, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

(3) Walk in the light.

In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

And after three years with Jesus, the Apostle John had this message to share:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 5)

(4) Be a light.

In John 9:5 Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).

And Jesus prayed to the Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

Jesus said that John the Baptist was a “burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35).  A lamp simply allows the light within it to shine brightly.  And I’m convinced that if we receive Jesus for who he truly is, find our life in Jesus fully, and walk in the light consistently, we can’t help but be a lamp through which Jesus shines brightly.

(5) Hope in him.

16For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.  17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17).

When his disciples were “in the dark,” Jesus shared…

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)

 And Paul encouraged God’s children by sharing…

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3).

 

[i] ESV study Bible

[ii] John Piper, Desiring God, In the beginning was the Word

[iii] John Piper, Desiring God, In the beginning was the Word

Paul – Called and Commissioned

In the introduction of Romans, we find that God, in his sovereignty and because of his grace, called the Apostle Paul and commissioned him to proclaim the Gospel of God to bring about the obedience of faith in order to increase his glory among all the nations.

The Gospel of God is the good news that reconciliation with God (salvation) has been made possible through the eternal Son of God Jesus Christ who came in weakness to die on the cross for our sins and rose in power defeating sin and death according to God’s predetermined plan.  Today, we must recognize that Jesus has called and commissioned his Church to do the same.

1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations… (Romans 1:1-5)

In verses 1 and 2 we begin with an introduction to the Apostle Paul and to The Gospel of God.

First, let’s refresh our memory on Paul – also known as Saul (Saul is his Hebrew name and Paul is his Greek name).  We first encounter him in the book of Acts where Saul is set on destroying the church, going from house to house, dragging off Christian men and women, and committing them to prison for their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:3).  It was while he was on mission to destroy the Church that the risen Jesus Christ appeared to him, and said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

From that point on the Apostle Paul became a fierce proponent of the very gospel he had once tried to destroy.  He traveled the Roman world proclaiming the gospel of Christ in superhuman power and with fierce dedication.  As he penned the letter to the Romans here, Paul had been preaching the gospel for almost twenty-five years.  He has planted church after church.  And now he begins to look to the Church at Rome as a potential partner as he sets his sights on Spain in order to take the Gospel of God to completely new territory (Romans 15:23-28).

Notice how Paul identifies himself:

First, Paul identifies himself as 1a servant of Christ Jesus:  The world servant can be translated bond-servant or slave.  Slaves made up ¼ of the Roman world at this time.  Though this was not chattel/race-based slavery that came to be in the United States, slaves in the Roman Empire belonged to someone else and were regarded as inferior to those of the upper class.

Paul uses the word to show that, as a slave, he belongs to God:  He is not the one who decides what he will do or what he will say.  Instead, God’s sovereign decision has determined determines who he is (servant of Christ) and what he must do (serve Christ by preaching the gospel).

But there is also another way we must understand his use of the word servant.  He is a servant in the way that Moses was God’s servant and in the way Joshua was God’s servant and in the way David was God’s servant.  There is a clear transition her from servant of Yahweh in the Old Testament to servant of Christ in the New Testament.  Pau is not bragging here.  He doesn’t have a flashy bumper sticker that says, “Servant of the King!”  He is simply saying, “I’m God’s servant.  I belong to him for his purposes.

Second, Paul identifies himself as one who was 1called as an apostle:  Jesus personally called his twelve disciples, saying, “Follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.”  And one by one the disciples left everything to embrace the call and commission of Jesus.  Paul received this same personal call and commission from the risen Lord Jesus.

Listen to God describe the call of Paul to Ananias in Acts 9:15

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine [why?] to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Listen to Paul describe his own call in Galatians 1:1

 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…

Once again, we see a long tradition of those personally called by God:  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and many others.  Paul is saying, “My call…is not my idea…this is what God has tasked me to do.  I’m not a propagator of my suggestions.  I am the means by which God has chosen to reveal the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.”

Third, Paul identifies himself as a one who has been 1set apart for the gospel of God:

Listen to what Paul says about being set apart to the Gospel of God in Galatians 1:15-16.

 15 But when he [God] who had set me apart [when?] before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, [why?] in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…

 And in Galatians 1:11-12, he says,

 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul transitions from introducing himself (he has established his authority:  His call and commission is from God to proclaim the Gospel of God).  Now, he introduces the Gospel of God…

as that 2which he [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.

The Gospel of God is good news but it is not new news.  The gospel is rooted in the Old Testament and Paul makes that very clear in the book of Romans as he quotes and alludes to the Old Testament time and again.

Listen to how the Apostle Paul affirms this in Acts 13:

 26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.

 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.

 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.

 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus…

 Thus, the Apostle Paul points to the Gospel of God as God’s predetermined plan to bring about salvation through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ as predicted in the Holy Scriptures.

Now, in verses 3-4 Paul reveals the content (substance) of the Gospel of God:

This gospel is 3concerning his Son.  In fact, Jesus is the content (substance) of the gospel.  Here is what Paul identifies about the Son as revealed to us through the Holy Scriptures:

First, he was 3descended from David according to the flesh.  That is – the eternal Son of God was born in the family line of King David as promised and, as a result, took on human flesh.

God spoke these words to David, recorded in 1 Chronicles 17:

11I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.

The eternal Son of God was born in our likeness.  Made like us in every way, but without sin.  He subjected himself to our weaknesses.

 Second, he was 4declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 You might have missed it, but something tragic and wonderful happened in-between verses 3 and 4.  In verse 3 the Son of God was born, as promised, according to the Holy Scriptures – in the family line of David.  In verse 4 the Son of God was raised from the grave, as promised, according to the Holy Scriptures – by the Holy Spirit and declared to be the Son of God in power.

What happened in-between verses 3 and 4?  The Son of God was crucified and buried, as promised, according to the Holy Scriptures.  Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripturesthat he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

Take a look at Peter’s sermon and what he declared in Acts 2 concerning this multi phase ministry of Jesus:  phase 1 (weakness) and phase 2 (power):

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. […]

32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God… […]

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The substance of the Gospel of God is that God’s predetermined plan was to send his eternal Son to complete two phases as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures:  Phase 1 involved weakness and death – a cross and a grave.  Phase 2 involved a once and for all resurrection from the grave – victory over sin and death and a crown for eternal rule.

 In verses 5-6 Paul reveals his Commission to the Gospel:

You’ll notice Paul’s call again is noted as a personal call from Jesus because Jesus is the one 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship.  Apostleship is not something someone worked to achieve or earn.  It was an act of God’s grace.  Paul said,

 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15).

Now, we ask, “For what purpose?”  Why has Paul been called and commissioned, by God’s grace, to proclaim the Gospel of God?

The answer is…5bto bring about the obedience of faith [Why?] for the sake of his name [for whom?] among all the nations.

According to God’s predetermined plan he has commissioned Paul to proclaim the Gospel of God for the obedience of faith.  What does God desire, faith or obedience?  It’s two sides of the same coin.  After Peter preached about the crucified and risen Christ, the crowd was convicted by the Holy Spirit and asked Peter, “What shall we do?”  Listen to Peter’s response as to what the obedience of faith looks like:

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2)

On Wednesday night we were reminded of a man who was crooked.  He was a sinner.  He took advantage of people financially.  Zacchaeus…  But Jesus sought Zacchaeus out and Zacchaeus placed his faith in Jesus Christ.  How do we know? Because, after some time together Zacchaeus stood up and said to Jesus, “Lord, half of my goods I will give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore it four times over.”  Jesus looked at him and said, “Today salvation has come to this house!” (Luke 19).  Now, what led Jesus to make such a declaration?  The obedience of faith…  If faith is genuine, obedience will follow.

You might have noticed that 5bthe obedience of faith [is] for the sake of his name.  It’s true that the Apostle Paul declares the gospel of Jesus Christ out of a sense of horizontal love and obligation, but Paul’s primary goal is vertical – it’s honoring and glorifying the name of Christ.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).

Paul’s primary goal is vertical – honor the King.  But also notice his horizontal obligation of seeking to honor God 5 among all the nations.

First, it’s vertical: for the glory of God.  Second, its horizontal…but not a cliquish horizontal.  It’s not only for the people Paul can identify with.  It’s global…  Paul’s desire is to see people respond to the gospel for God’s glory among all the nations.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28).

We were reminded in our Wednesday night study concerning Zacchaeus that God does not categorize people the way we do.  If you look at anyone…and I mean anyone…and think, “They are beyond hope.”  First of all, you’re right.  They are as beyond hope as you were.  But if you look at anyone…and I mean anyone…and think, “They are beyond God’s love and help.”  …If that’s true for them, it’s also true for you.  But you would be horribly wrong.

God’s predetermined plan of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ is just as much for a member of ISIS today as it is for you.  It’s just as much for the poor as it is for the rich.  It’s just as much for the uneducated as it is for the educated.

Paul said,

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, [why?] that I might win more of them (1 Cor. 9:19).

I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Romans 1:14).

This coming week, we will seek to answer the question, “How has the Church been called and commissioned to the Gospel of God?

a family made for worship

The first three chapters of the book of Ezra highlight God’s faithfulness to keep his word.  God moves on the heart of Cyrus and his people in order to bring his people home to restore community and worship.  God’s sovereignty and grace is displayed through their release, return, rebuilding, remembering, and rejoicing.

  1. The remnant is released (Ezra 1:1-4)
  2. The remnant returns (Ezra 1:5-2:70)
  3. The remnant rebuilds (Ezra 3:1-9)
  4. The remnant remembers…and rejoices (Ezra 3:10-13)

We might equate this today with something like…

  1. God fulfills his promises – hope in his word.
  2. God guides & provides – obey & trust in his provision.
  3. God prescribes proper worship – through Jesus in spirit and in truth.
  4. God is worthy of praise – in sorrow and joy.

The book of Ezra points us to the day in which we would be rescued from captivity (sin & Satan) through the cross and returned to our Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ.  God is now doing an amazing work constructing a temple for himself with Jesus as the cornerstone and you and I as living stones placed together for the glory of God.

As one reads through the Old Testament, one might take notice that at the beginning the characters are big – Abraham, Moses, Joshua, etc.  However, as we move towards the end of the Old Testament history books – Ezra and Nehemiah – big characters take a back seat to the community of faith and God’s community becomes the focus.  This is intentional, for God is doing a work – not establishing superstars for his Kingdom but uniting a family around the Morning Star Jesus Christ.

As God’s family we remember the price that was paid to bring us together and we rejoice because of the eternal hope we have in Jesus.  May God stir our hearts to love this family and serve according to his will!

(Luke 4:18, 1 Peter 2:25, 1 Peter 2:5, Psalm 118)

Correction: It’s about Service

On more than one occasion, we remember that the disciples were a bit clueless.  On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus shockingly shared with his disciples he would be arrested and crucified.  Peter, for some reason, felt the need to rebuke Jesus for this type of statement.  The disciples would then argue among themselves about which one of them was greatest.  Even a mother of two of the disciples would put a special request in for her two sons – that they might be especially honored by Jesus in the days to come.

Jesus, of course, would not have his disciples thinking like this – putting man’s needs and desires before the will of God.  He rebuked Peter; and he called his disciples together after this rivalry and showed them that this type of thinking – which promotes self – is not aligned with God’s will and not consistent with his Kingdom.

This same Jesus was angered when religious leaders were unconcerned and unmoved by the legitimate needs of others.  He was frustrated when his disciples time after time continued to think in matters only in regard to self preservation.  So, Jesus began to show his disciples how to be greatly important:  First, they would have to learn to see things though God’s eternal perspective.  They would have to learn to recognize the genuine needs of others.  Then they must deny themselves and follow the example of Jesus by humbly serving others.

To be committed to Jesus today means that we are committed to this purpose in our own lives.  Our goal is to help others grow in their relationship with Christ (Col. 1:28).  And regardless of where we serve in the church, we are not seeking the applause of people but the approval of God.  Our satisfaction does not come from the way in which others may applaud us but in the way others are maturing in their faith (3 Jn. 4).  We recognize that we are part of a family where there is only one Teacher who deserves special honor.  While he is the head of the Church, we recognize that this growing family is made of people with a diversity of gifts and struggles.  Together, we are striving to think and live like him – the one who came to serve through suffering and the one who is returning with rewards.

(Matthew 16, Mark 8) Inspired by Andrew Seidel’s Charting a Bold Course (pp. 41-45).

Four Things We Can’t Do Without

From 1 Peter 1 we have been reminded that we are refugees (temporary residents) of this world, we have hope today because God the Father has chosen us, God the Son has washed away our sin, and God the Holy Spirit has set us apart to obey heaven’s instruction here on earth.

While we are here for just a short time, we are encouraged to know that we have an unfading and eternal inheritance (treasure/reward) that is securely kept for us in heaven while we are being kept secure by God’s power here on earth.  As we go through difficult times, we are to trust that God is purifying us.  Through trials and difficulties he is deepening our love for him and our dependence on him.

Today, Jesus is our living hope.  We look back and remember that Christ suffered before he was glorified.  Therefore, as we suffer today, we set our hope fully on the glory that will come with the return of Christ (our inheritance).  We make our investments today in heaven because we will one day given an account to the one who purchased us with his blood.

This Sunday we asked a very important question: How do we set our hope on heaven?

Peter answers that in 1 Peter 2 by showing us the need to stop living the way we used to and commit to growing/maturing in our salvation together.  In the same way a new born baby would crave milk, you and I (as those who have been given new life and placed in his family) are to crave the spiritual nourishment found in Acts 2:42 – God’s Word, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and Christian fellowship.

Now, these may sound elementary…but they are absolutely critical to our growth and joy in Christ!  Don’t forget just how important it is to assemble regularly as God’s family under God’s word, to pray, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and to encourage each other (see Hebrews 10:25).