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January 11 2015

Grace from Beginning to End

 

Scripture reading: I Peter 1:10-13.

 

According to the great mercy of our God and Father he has caused many to be born again. That is, our spirits have been regenerated and this began a salvation in us that will continue until the Lord returns. It will culminate in the salvation of our bodies which, at present, are afflicted with mortality, weakness, aging, and sometimes illness. But the main goal of God’s grace and mercy is the salvation of our souls: the transformation of our mind, our emotion, and our will to that of Christ. This is a life-long process that will not be complete until He returns.

 

It is the outcome of our faith. The salvation of our souls begins, transpires, and is completed through our faith – our trust – in Christ and His promises.

 

Verse 10 begins, “Concerning this salvation…” The salvation referred to is the salvation of our souls mentioned in verse 9. As we learned last week the salvation of our souls began with the salvation of our spirits. Both the salvation of our spirit and our soul is through, and only through, the sufferings and resurrection of Christ. This is why there is no salvation in any other so-called “faith,” because every religious system other than the Christian faith is outside of Christ and it is the suffering and resurrection of Christ that makes salvation possible.

 

The prophets of the Old Testament period looked ahead by the power of God and prophesied of  Christ’s sufferings and “subsequent glories.” What is Peter referring to when he says “subsequent glories?” These are glories that Christ received after he suffered and died. This includes his resurrection, his ascension (recorded in Acts 1), and his enthronement at the right hand of God (seen in Acts 7).

 

Man not only has a difficult time predicting the future, he is not able to do it with any accuracy whatsoever.

 

“Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility--a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.”  Lee de Forest, 1926, inventor of the cathode ray tube.

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.” Thomas J. Watson, 1943, Chairman of the Board of IBM

“We don't think the Beatles will do anything in their market. Guitar groups are on their way out.”  Recording company expert, 1962

King George II said in 1773 that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution.

In 1939 The New York Times said the problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn't have time for it.

An English astronomy professor said in the early 19th century that air travel at high speed would be impossible because passengers would suffocate.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch in 1911: "Airplanes are interesting toys, but they have no military value."

Business Week, 1958: "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market."

Frank Knox, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, on December 4, 1941: "Whatever happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping."

Economist Irving Fisher on October 16, 1929: "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

Some people can be quite clever in their pretended prophecies. A devout believer in astrology, French king Louis XI was deeply impressed when an astrologer correctly foretold that a lady of the court would die in eight days' time. Deciding, however, that the too-accurate prophet should be disposed of, Louis summoned the man to his apartments, having first told his servants to throw the visitor out of the window when he gave the signal. "You claim to understand astrology and to know the fate of others," the king said to the man, "so tell me at once what your fate will be and how long you have to live."

"I shall die just three days before Your Majesty," answered the astrologer. The shaken king canceled his plans!

This is one of the powerful evidences that the Bible is, indeed, the infallible word of God. It is the only book that makes true and accurate predictions.

It was revealed to the prophets in the OT that the reason they received this revelation about the Christ who was to come was not for their own benefit, but it was for you! When you heard the good news of having your sins forgiven that was because the Holy Spirit spoke through a person to you. This good news: the suffering and resurrection of Christ and what it accomplished is something that even angels did not know. They wanted to know it, but they had to wait until it was revealed just like humans did.

It is the greatest privilege. It is the culmination of thousands of years of history that you and I have received the benefits of Christ’s work. What an undeserved and wonderful privilege that you and I sit here with our sins forgiven because of what Jesus did on our behalf. Things into which angels long to look!

Verse 13 reads:            Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In view of what we have received, in view of receiving God’s grace through the good news of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice, in view of being born again, Peter commands us to do three things: Prepare our minds for action, be sober-minded, and set our hope fully on what will happen when Jesus returns. I wish to consider these things out of order.

[1] We are to be sober. The word here has two meanings. It can mean to be sober, that is, not to be drunk. Or, it can mean to be sober-minded. That is, to be serious and focused in your mind. Sometimes, we can easily tell which meaning the author has in mind. For example,

            So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7            For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8          But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. [1] (1 Th 5:6–8)

In Thesalonians it is clear that Paul meant “sober” since he contrasts it with getting drunk.

The meaning could be the same here in Peter. Many Bible versions translate it that way:

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober… (KJV, NKJV, Geneva)

Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober… (NET)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober… (NIV)

Wherefore having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober… (Young’s)

This could be the intent of Peter. Not being sober is a problem for many and has been for 5,000 years. It is not a sin to drink an alcoholic beverage. Jesus drank wine and created wine at the wedding in Cana. The apostolic church partook of wine at the Lord’s table. Psalm 104:14 gives praise to God that he created wine “to gladden the heart of man.”

 

Wine is like sex in this respect: It was created by God for the gladness of man but it is a gift that is easily abused. Sexual relations are a blessing in the context of marriage and marriage alone. Yet, man wishes to abuse this blessing and use it outside of the bounds with which God has prescribed. Similarly, wine is a gift to be used in moderation but easily overtakes the good judgment of many. This is why the same Bible that says that wine was created by God for the gladness of man also says that wine is a mocker (Proverbs 20:1). Those with weak wills may find that it calls to them at inopportune times and a kind of a lust for the red liquid may arise.

There are consequences to the abuse of alcoholic. Between ten and thirteen thousand die every year in automobile accidents where alcohol is a definitive factor, but this is dramatically reduced from twenty years ago where the figures were much higher.

[Illus] Norvel Young was President and then Chancellor of Pepperdine University, a Christian University in beautiful Malibu. He himself was a Christian. In the mid-seventies he was under the influence of alcohol when he was involved in an auto accident that killed two women. It ended his career and I am certain that the death of those women were on his conscience for a long time.

It is estimated that over one million people have died in vehicular and work accidents in the U.S. because of alcohol consumption.

These are tragic numbers, especially when you realize that a good number of those fatalities were children who were victims of their parents poor choices. But, if Peter meant being sober with respect to alcohol, he did not have accidents in mind. In the context of our passage not being sober would hinder preparing our minds for action. One does not even need to be drunk for this to happen. Consider, in the privacy of one’s own home it would not be a sin to have a glass or two of wine in the evening. But, what else could one be doing? Ans: they could be preparing their minds for action! This means spending time in the word. This means reading literature by men and women of God who will help prepare you. Being under the influence of alcohol is not conducive to this.

Some will have a drink after work to relax after a stressful day at their jobs. That is not wrong. But isn’t it better to relax by reading God’s word? I find that that relaxes me. Does it not bring you peace? And, while you are experiencing peace, your mind is being prepared.

Peter also could have meant “sober-minded.” We are to be sober-minded. It is not wrong to joke or to have fun at times. Solomon said,          For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

            a time to be born, and a time to die…

                        a time to weep, and a time to laugh; (Ecclesiastes 3:1&4 ESV)

This past year we saw the death by suicide of Robin Williams, one of the most gifted comedians ever. But long before it was revealed that he had drug, alcohol, and problems with depression, I knew that something was wrong. I observed every time that he appeared on a talk show, such as the Tonight Show, he was never able to be serious. He was always joking, non-stop. It was a cover for the emptiness that was his life.

We are to be sober-minded. We are engaged in a battle: a battle against spiritual forces in our culture, but also a battle against our own sinful nature. We do have time for humor, but not much.

Brother and sisters, be sober-minded. Not frivolity-minded, not entertainment-minded, not money-minded. Gird up the loins of your mind!

Therefore, whether Peter meant to be sober or to be sober-minded, both are apropos and we ought to give heed.

[2] Peter also commands us to set our “hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He means the second coming of Christ to the earth.

Hope is under the control of our will. We choose what to hope in and what not to hope in. This is shown to be true in that Peter commands us “to set” our hope on the grace that will be shown to us when Jesus returns. In this respect he echoes what the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13.  He said there is But one thing he does: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. He presses on toward the goal of the prize.

We should set our minds and our hope on what happens when the Lord returns. Even though it is true that some believers will be disappointed when the Lord returns because they did not serve Christ as they should have, we must not miss a divine fact. Even the Lord’s assessment of our lives will be performed in grace. All that we receive from Him on that great day will be received because He is so gracious!

We set our hope on God’s grace but we do not take his grace and use it as an excuse to forsake our calling. Rather, in view of His goodness and grace we prepare ourselves!

[Illus] Someone confronted Martin Luther, upon the Reformer's rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, with the remark, "If this is true, a person could simply live as he pleased!" "Indeed!" answered Luther. "Now, what pleases you?" Luther’s point was that, if one truly loved God and appreciated His grace, then their desire is to please Him. That is the response to grace of a child of God!

Most understand what grace is in its simple meaning: It is the favor of God upon you, favor that is undeserved. There is nothing that you do or that you can do to have God’s favor. It just comes to you because of His love. That is grace.

But there is a deeper meaning to grace. A great man of God from the last century gave a definition of grace that is faithful to the revelation of the New Testament. It is this: It is simply God Himself dispensed into us to meet our need. When God comes to you that is both grace and the highest grace.

[3] How ought we to respond to all of God’s grace? We prepare our minds for action! As I alluded a few moments ago, this means spending time in the word. This means reading literature by men and women of God who will help prepare you. Better yet, spending time with those who are sold out for God and His kingdom and letting their heart and knowledge rub off on you.

Our minds will not be prepared if we do nothing to prepare them. We must set aside a time to do this and we must make this time inviolable. Meaning, we set aside a time and we do not allow other things to steal this time from us. There are a thousand things that can and will distract us from preparing our minds.

There are, of course, sinful things that can distract us. “Distraction” is too light of a word for the sinful things. For, they not only distract us but they bring ruination to our lives. They diminish the enjoyment that we can have even though there is “pleasure for a season.” In the long run, sinful acts and thoughts take away our joy.

But, what one might call “neutral things,” acts that are neither good nor bad in themselves – things such as sports or games, may easily take our time. Even good things may distract us! It has been said that the greatest enemy of the best is not the bad but the good. This is a true adage because when we are doing bad things or even so-called neutral things too much then our conscience begins to bother us. But when we are doing good things everything seems fine. Good actions can rob us of better actions.

The “better action” that Peter call us to is to prepare our minds for action. This means spending time in the word. This means reading literature by men and women of God who will help prepare you.

You have heard me say this before, but it is so very, very true and bears repeating: unless you commit and set aside a time to read, study, and memorize God’s word it will almost never happen.

Conclusion: How will you respond to God’s grace? Our spirits were saved by grace. We did not deserve what the Lord has done for us. Our reward at the Lord’s return will be through grace. Now the salvation of our souls, which to some extent depends upon us, is also through grace.

The grace that we have received is marvelous, infinite, and matchless! It has been freely bestowed on all who believe. And now, it is coming to all who are longing to see His face. Are you longing to see His face?

God’s grace is coming to you today. It is God Himself touching your spirit and moving in you to prepare your mind’s for action, to be sober, to be sober-minded, and to fix your hope on the Lord’s return when even more grace can be experienced.

God ‘s grace is here now.

How will you respond to it? You will do as you please. What pleases you? If God and His kingdom please you then prepare your minds.

 

 

 

           

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Th 5:6–8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.