Sunday, February 22, 2009



Intro.: We Sandra and I traveled to Erie this weekend, we did it differently than we normally do.

  1. You see, when we traveled we did not take our GPS.

  2. We could have gotten lost.

  3. One wrong turn and who knows where we may have ended up almost anywhere.

  4. Or, as it snowed on Thursday afternoon, a wrong twist of the wheel, and we could have ended up in the island between the two sides of Thruway – like the one car we saw.

  5. But I had a goal. I knew where we were going.

  6. Now that is not always the case – there are times that I will just take a road and see where it goes. No planned destination, no route, just drive to see what we see.

  7. Sometimes it is fun to drive with a purpose. Other times it is fun to drive with no purpose.

  8. It may be true when traveling – I am not so sure that it is true for our spiritual lives.

  9. Let me illustrate that with today's passage.

Read: I Peter 4:1-6


T.S. I Peter 4:1-6 helps us to see that we must put Christ at the center of our lives – and let him set the direction that our lives will take.

  1. Purposeless Wandering

    1. Peter moves from the suffering that believers experienced because of their faith to examining the world in which they all lived.

    2. As we read Peter, Christopher Hall suggests that we get the feeling that the “world of his day as a society has lost its mind.”1

    3. Violence, oppression, cruelty, the abuse of power, and sexual insanity dominate the landscape.

    4. What is sad is that much of those same terms might be used to describe our own culture.

(Ill.) Yesterday, as Sandra and I drove home from Erie, we listened to a sermon by E. Stanley Jones. E. Stanley Jones was a United Methodist missionary who spent much of his life living in and ministering to the people of India. During his life he became a friend of Ghandi. Though I had heard of Jones, I had never had the opportunity to hear his preaching until yesterday. In his sermon “My Life's Convictions” he outlines 12 key concepts that shaped his ministry over 50+ years he served Christ. Here was a man with a purpose, a man who shared that purpose where he lived.

    1. We live in a culture that has no purpose. We live in a culture that cares for itself. A culture that one man has said is characterized by “purposeless wandering”

  1. Purposeful Direction

    1. But Peter calls believers to something else – something I will call “Purposeful Direction”.

    2. Peter knows that if his readers make decisions to follow the holy path that God calls them to, there will be repercussions.

    3. You know people will be really surprised when we choose God's way rather their way. Last week we suggested that Jesus would have a much easier life, if he ignored this thing called sin. What Peter is saying here is that the same would be true for you and me. “...when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery” (I Peter 4:4a)

    4. But there is another repercussion – to understand it you need to look at the word at the end of verse 4. The Greek word is clearly “blaspheme.” “

    5. The English translations are scattered all over the place. But they fall into two categories.

      1. One group of English translations suggest that when non-believer observe our holy behavior, they will blaspheme – which very closely matches the Greek. [1 Pe 4:4] "With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they blaspheme; "

      2. But the vast majority of the translations suggest that when non-believers observe our holy behavior they will attack us – injure us, malign us, or abuse us.

      3. And when I saw this I was confused. But I had a breakthrough. The church is the body of Christ. When the church is attacked, Christ, the body of Christ, is being attacked. So the connection between the two translations makes sense.

(Ill.) At an open-air meeting in Liverpool, a skeptic gave a strong address against Christianity to a large audience and at the close said, “If any man here can say a single word in favor of Jesus Christ, let him come out and say it.” Not a man moved. The silence became oppressive. Then two young girls arose, walked hand in hand, as if moved by the Holy Spirit, up to the speaker and said, “We can’t speak, but we will sing for Christ,” and they sang with great power, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” When the song ceased, every head was uncovered, all were deeply moved, some were sobbing, and the crowd quietly went away, apparently with no thought of the skeptic’s words.2

(Appl.) Can you stand with God against the blasphemies, against sneers, against temptations to dishonesty, against bribery in subtle form, against flattery, against persecution?

  1. Choices

    1. Well, that's it.

    2. We are left with a couple of choices.

      1. The first choice we have to make is what will we do with this man named Jesus? He calls us to believe in him. The first choice for each of us is to place our faith in Him.

      2. But there is another choice. Once we decide to follow Jesus, what difference will it make? Will life remain the same or will you let God make the changes he needs in your life?

    3. So whether you are a believer or not, Christ has choices for us to make.


1Hall, Christopher A. (2005). The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers. Page 443 (NT).

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Affirming Your Faith

Affirming Your Faith

Intro.: I have never had to testify in a courtroom setting.

  1. But if I did, then I would need to repeat the followingwords before I could give testimony: “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?”1

  2. Giving an oath when giving testimony dates back to the time of Jesus – there are records of witnesses having to give oaths in court before testifying. In fact, Roman law required that perjurers be thrown down from a cliff as their punishment for lying under oath.

  3. In more modern times, the use of an oath has been brought into question. First challenged by the Quakers and then by athiests and members of non-Christian faiths, it has become standard to allow those who are to “affirm” that they will tell the truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth, rather than to swear to do so.

  4. I would like to suggest that our passage today includes three affirmations that will allow us to live a more complete Christian life.

Read: I Peter 4:1-2


Trans: Important to remember that the people to whom Peter wrote were not a homogeneous group.

  1. Rather they were came from all over Israel and fled for their lives when they faced persecution.

  2. Not only did they come from various parts of Israel, they also were scattered throughout the region we now know as Turkey.

  3. Peter called them the Diaspora they were dispersed both from where they came and to where they went.

T.S. I Peter 4:1-2 leads us through three affirmations that can define our Christian life.

  1. Affirmation #1: I have decided to suffer like Christ

(Ill.) Suffering is not a new concept in our study of I Peter. In case you think I am dwelling on this too much, take the week to read through the book of I Peter. Seventeen times Peter addresses the concept of suffering. “Suffering” is addressed in each of the five chapters of the book. Peter recognized that suffering was an expected part of the Christian life. It was an expected part of Christ's life.

    1. Christ suffered. That Thursday and Friday when Christ was led to the cross must have been a tragic day for Jesus. His best friends deserted Him at the very hour that he needed them the most. Whipped, forced to wear a crown of thorns, rejected by the very people he came to save, placed on a cross between two thieves. Christ suffered.

    2. And Peter calls us to have the “same mind”, the “same attitude”, or the “same intention” as Christ had.

    3. Faith, as it did for Christ, may cost us something.

(Appl.) Believers too often come to the conclusion that life is going to be easy once with choose to live a life of faith. But that promise is never made. Christ had perfect faith and His life was not easy. Christ. Our lives will parallel His. Why should a life of ease be expected. To follow Christ means that life will be uncomfortable.

    1. And when choose to believe, it includes a willingness to suffer like Christ. “[1 Pe 4:1] Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking

  1. Affirmation #2: I have decided to stop sinning

(Ill.) Around 1700 a preacher by the name of Matthew Henry wrote one of the earliest and most respected commentaries of the Christian church. The original commentary consisted of six volumes – more recently someone went through and removed all the extra notes and reduced it to a single volume. There are some who still think it is one of the best devotional commentaries ever written. Matthew Henry writes that “Some of the strongest and best arguments against all sorts of sin are taken from the sufferings of Christ.”2

    1. You know Christ would not have suffered nearly as much if he had not worried about sinning.

    2. Peter makes it clear that the same is true for us. [1 Pe 4:1] “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”

    3. Once Christ decided that suffering for our faith, the suffering was a natural consequence of His choice.

(Appl). Choosing God's way rather than our way is not an easy choice. Choosing God's way rather than the world's way is not an easy choice. Choosing God's way rather than someone else's way is not an easy choice.

    1. But once we have become willing to suffer for our faith, it becomes easier to choose to put aside the sin which seeks to trap us.

  1. Affirmation #3: I have decided to do the will of God

(Ill.) I grew up just a bit too late. I remember my parents talking about a man named Ruben who was a professional political cartoonist. However, it was not the political cartoons that brought him fame – it was series of cartoons from the 1920's through 1950's that depicted a series of overly engineered machines that did very simple things – for example washed windows or sharpening a pencil. In the 30's his machines came to be known as Rube Goldberg Machines.3 My kids were lucky enough (or was unlucky enough) to have science teachers that believed in making Rube Goldberg machines. They had to design a machine that used a series of contraptions to light a candle. Our passage today is like a spiritual Rube Goldberg Machine. If you decide to suffer for Christ, then you will be willing drop the sin from your life. Which leads to the third affirmation – once we are willing to drop the sin from our life, we will have decided to do the will of God.

    1. It follows that deciding that it is okay to suffer for Christ means that it is safe to decide to avoid the sin that hinders our walk. And once we decide to avoid the sin that hinders our walk, it natural to decide to follow God wherever he may lead: [1 Pe 4:1-2] Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

(Ill.) Geoge Truett was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX, for 47 years. He was not only known for his work at the church but was known around the world. But he understood the nature of the Will of God . He once said, “To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge, to find the will of God is the greatest discovery, and to do the will of God is the greatest achievement.”4

Conclusion: Becoming a Christian is easy – it means to choosing Christ. But living the Christian life is not easy.

  1. It means deciding to suffer for Jesus.

  2. But once we decide to suffer for Jesus, it means we can accept the difficulties associated with not sinning.

  3. And choosing to put aside the sin the hinders our walk with God, means we are ready to follow God wherever He may lead us.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. [1 Pe 4:1-2]



2Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (1 Pe 4:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.


4Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Suffering And Response

Suffering And Responding

Intro.: Every three months we get here at the church copies of The Upper Room.

  1. A number of possible responses.

    • You could reach out and take it gratefully

    • You could just decide to not take it

    • Or you could take it and put it on your shelf and never look at it.

  1. Now your response The Upper Room doesn't make a big difference.

  2. But what if I told you that there was something of far greater value to pass out. Something that could change your life forever.

  3. The responses could be the same

    • You could reach out and take it gratefully

    • You could just decide to not take it

    • Or you could take it and put it on your shelf and never look at it.

  1. I want to examine the nature of that gift as we look at today's passage.

Read: I Peter 3:18-22


Trans: Let me start with a story about a man, suffering, and faith.

  1. In the year 1847, a doctor from Edinburgh, Sir James Simpson, discovered that chloroform could be used as an anaesthetic to render people insensible to the pain of surgery. From his early experiments, Dr. Simpson made it possible for people to go through the most dangerous operations without fear of pain and suffering. Some people even claim that his was one of the most significant discoveries of modern medicine.

  2. Some years later, while lecturing at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Simpson was asked by one of his students, “What do you consider to be the most valuable discovery of your lifetime?” To the surprise of his students, who had expected him to refer to chloroform, Dr. Simpson replied, “My most valuable discovery was when I discovered myself a sinner and that Jesus Christ was my Saviour.”1

  1. Christ suffered for our salvation. [1 Pe 3:18] "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, "

    1. During the past few weeks we have spoken about the role of suffering in the Christians life.

    2. As we looked at suffering, we noted that the one perfect person in the world also suffered.

    3. But it is important to not that this was not just an idea of mine – it also was in the thoughts of Peter.

    4. Some things to note –

      1. it is a one time thing. Christ suffered for our sins – it is done.

      2. Christ was punished for sin – remember the scripture, “The wages of sin is death.” [Rom 6:23]. But it was not His sin that brought His death. - it was our sin.

(Ill.) I don't think I would like to live in Texas. More people are put to death in Texas than in any other state of the union. In fact, half of the 37 executions held in the United States were performed by the state of Texas. The next highest were the four executed by the state of Virginia. There were 7 other states that had three or fewer executions.2 Though I don't plan on committing any murders, I really would not want to live in the state with the reputation for having more death penalty cases than any other. Now I know, that with only a few possible exceptions, those who were sentenced to death did commit the crimes with which they were charged. But, and here is the important point, Christ was sentenced not for His own crimes – but for yours, and yours, and yours, and mine.

      1. Peter says “the righteous for the unrighteous”, “the just for the unjust” depending on which version you are using. Max Lucado's favorite Bible is the the New Century Version – it puts it this way [1 Pe 3:18] "Christ himself suffered for sins once. He was not guilty, but he suffered for those who are guilty to bring you to God."

    1. Have you done things you don't want anybody to know about? Are there secrets that must remain hidden from even your closest friends? God already knows about them. He loves you – and he still died for you. He has accepted you. He has forgiven you.

  1. Baptism is the result of our acceptance of His suffering for our sin [1 Pe 3:21] "And that water is like baptism that now saves you—not the washing of dirt from the body, but the promise made to God from a good conscience. And this is because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead."

    1. Peter reminds us that he died not only for our sins, but also for those who died before he came – notably those who died in the flood when God saved eight individuals to repopulate the earth.

    2. But out of the flood, Peter connects to our Baptism.

    3. As Methodists, we believe that there are two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper.

    4. As we see here, baptism is tied to the death of Christ – it happens once.

    5. And it happens because we choose to be baptized – the church practices baptism in response to Christ's great commission: [Mt 28:19-20] "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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

    6. Baptism is not what saves us – it does not wash us free of the sin, the dirt (as Peter calls it). But it serves an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a prayer – acknowledging what God has done through the cross of Jesus.

(Ill.) A certain man thought that by being immersed he could find salvation. A friend of his had quite a time explaining to him that it was not so. But this man insisted that, as water would purify the body, so water consecrated by a minister or priest would purify the soul. Finally, to demonstrate that baptism did not mean regeneration, the friend decided upon an object lesson. “Here,” he said. “I take an ink bottle, cork it tight, put a string round the neck, and drag it through the river. How long will it take to clean out the inside?” The answer was obvious, “You will never in the world clean it out that way.” We must understand once and for all that no outward act will ever cleanse us within. Repentance is an act that takes place within us, while baptism is an outward act that demonstrates to the world what has already happened in our hearts.”3

    1. When we were baptized, we acknowledged Christ's death as punishment for our own sins. If we were baptized as an infant, our parents were making a promise to raise us to appreciate the love of Christ and within the church. When we joined the church we acknowledged that Christ's death was for our sin.



1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.


3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Suffering For Blessing

Suffering For Blessing

Intro.: Paul once wrote, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”

  1. Suffering is never easy, yet it is part of life. It is part of all of our lives.

  2. For some it is physical suffering, for some it will be emotional suffering, for some it will come in the form of financial hardship.

  3. For some it will a short term problem, for others suffering is a part of their whole lives.

  4. For some it is the result of the choices they have made. For some it is the result of the abuse given by others. And for some, it is just the result of living.

  5. I don't have all the answers, but I want to look at one passage that gives us some insight into God's view of suffering.

Read: I Peter 3:13-18a


  1. Suffering is a Win-Win situation

    1. Listen to Peter, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

    2. Peter begins by making it clear that harm should not be a part of the life of a believer. There is no one that should harm you if you are living the life that God calls you to.

    3. Of course, just because there is no reason to be harmed, doesn't mean it won't happen.

(Ill.) For example, there is a story told of child in India. On the Western shore of India – near the Southern tip – lies a region known as Travancore. In the middle of the 19th century the Bishop of Madras was visiting Travancore, there was introduced to him a little slave girl called “The Child Apostle.” She had won this title by the zeal with which she talked of Christ to others. Her quiet, steady persistence in this had won several converts to Christ. But she had suffered persecution too brutal to relate. When she was introduced to the Bishop, her face, neck and arms were disfigured and scarred by stripes and blows. As he looked at her, the good man’s eyes filled, and he said, “My child, how could you bear this?”

She looked up at him in surprise and said, “Don’t you like to suffer for Christ, sir?”1

    1. But it should not really surprise us – as we have said before, the only perfect man who ever lived was persecuted. Isaiah described Him as:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like one people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. (Is 53:3)

    1. And like Christ, when we do suffer, we end up being blessed.

    2. Seems strange – I suffer, I am blessed. But it does means I do not need to be afraid of suffering. “God is an ever present help in trouble

  1. Suffering accompanies obedience

    1. Along with helping us to see the connection between suffering and blessing, Peter also points out the connection between suffering and obedience.

    2. In the midst of Peter's instructions about suffering, he gives a series of five commands.

      1. Have no fear of them

      2. nor be troubled

      3. honor Christ the Lord as holy

      4. always being prepared to make a defense to anyone

      5. having a good conscience

    3. The commands start by reminding us that we do not need to be afraid of those who challenge us. Remember that perfect love casts out fear. We no longer need to be afraid.

    4. But from telling us not to fear, he refocuses our attention on Christ the Lord.

(Ill.) A little over 400 years ago scholars believed that the universe centered around the earth. It was Copernicus that realized that the science of a earth centered universe did not explain all the events that he saw in the sky – the planets, the sun, the stars, did not behave as they should if the earth was the center of the universe. He set about to explain what he saw and came to the conclusion that the known solar system rotated around the sun. But that was considered a heresy and he could not publish his findings. It would be another 100 years before his findings would be released by Galileo and finally accepted as good science. The world thought that the universe centered around the earth. And even now science teaches that our solar system circles the sun. But they miss the truth – at the center of it all is not the earth, is not the sun, but is the God Himself. Peter reminds us that rather than focusing our attention on so many little things – we must focus our attention on Jesus.

    1. Finally, Peter gives instructions about how we are to live – be ready to give a defense and live with a good conscience.

(Ill.) I was always surprised when a number of years ago a friend who knew me only as a computer science instructor remarked that he was surprised on how open I was with my faith. You see, I thought that was the way every believer lived their lives – I mean if Christ is the most important thing in their lives, we will be talking about Him. We will be ready to give a defense of our faith.

    1. And living our lives with a clear conscience is one of the best ways we can be a witness for our faith.

Conclusion: Suffering is part of life.

  1. There is no reason we should suffer as believers.

  2. But when we do, we know that we will be blessed.

  3. And then we saw that suffering will be accompanied by obedience.

  4. Suffering may be part of life, but our faith in Christ prepares us to face it.


1Choice Gleanings quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.