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Be Secure Through Suffering

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BE SECURE THROUGH SUFFERING

July 24, 2005

Introduction: A letter from a loved one means a lot at any time but especially so if you’re lonely, discouraged or depressed. Peter’s first letter was written to uplift and encourage people who were hurting and suffering, people who were being ridiculed and persecuted because they lived for Jesus Christ. His words of encouragement lightened their burden and made their pathway clear. Throughout the Roman Empire believers had been attacked and were being savagely persecuted—so much so that they had been forced to flee for their lives. They had been forced to leave everything behind: homes, property, estates, businesses, jobs, money, church, friends, and fellow believers. Believers had apparently taken their families and what belongings they could carry and fled for their lives. Peter is writing to five Roman provinces where most of the believers had apparently tried to hide and find safety. But note how the church is continuing on as an underground church.

When these believers received Christ as Savior and Lord everything was so new and wonderful to them. They rapidly grew both spiritually and numerically. They formed new churches and met regularly for worship, Bible study, and fellowship. Then the trouble began.  Imagine the fear, uncertainty, and insecurity; the wandering about and the searching for a safe place and for a way to earn a living. In some cases, the believers did not even know where their next meal would come from. The church and its dear believers were fleeing for their lives. I believe that all the feelings that attack human emotions when a person is being hunted down for brutal slaughter were attacking these believers: fear, concern, restlessness, sleeplessness, anxiety, stress, uncertainty, insecurity, and a pounding heart at the slightest shadow or noise.

The believers desperately needed strong encouragement. But how? How do you shore up and strengthen a person who is suffering and hurting so much? How can a person be secure through suffering and persecution? There is one way and only one way: he must know that he is saved and be absolutely sure that he is under the care and love of God. This is the discussion of the first section of First Peter. It clearly tells us how to be secure through suffering. Our security is this: knowing that we are saved, that we belong to God and are looked after by God.

Would you turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1:1-2 and follow along as I read:

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God's chosen people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood. May you have more and more of God's special favor and wonderful peace.

 

In the light of their present suffering, you can imagine the joy that was theirs when they heard the good news that Peter had written them a letter which would soon be read aloud in their church. What excitement there must have been as their leaders called them together one day and carefully unrolled the scroll and began to read. Some of these new believers were so discourage that they must have been having second thoughts about this Christian life they had chosen to follow. As Peter’s words were read to them, however, I believe their doubts began to slip away and they were comforted by the assurance that they had been chosen as the special recipients of God’s grace. Peter reminded them that they were the chosen of God and, as such, were aliens and pilgrims in this world who should not expect this life to be a bed of roses.

This letter is full of hope, promise, and help for troubled believers. I trust it will be a help and encouragement to you as well, for the troubles experienced by these people are ones which could afflict us today. Peter begins his letter by giving us three of the marks of a Christian. A Christian is a sojourner in this world (we are visitors, not permanent residents), elected by God, and a saint – that is to say, we are set apart to God and covered by the blood of Christ, we are people who obey God, and we are people who experience grace and peace (regardless of our circumstances)

So, where we live on this earth does not matter all that much. No matter where we live, it is not our permanent home. Our home is in heaven. We may be forced to leave our homes and countries because of trouble and persecution—we may be poor and suffer great hardship in this life, but it is only for a brief time. We are only strangers and pilgrims on earth. We shall soon be called to go home—to go to our permanent home in heaven and be there forever and ever. And there shall be no hunger or poverty or suffering or hardship in heaven. We need to remember this when our daily routines or the problems of daily living get us down and we lose out perspective or identity as a Christian. May we today regain or refresh our sense of belonging and purpose in life as Christians as we keep our eyes and minds on three things:

 .  focused on heaven as our permanent home.

  how short life is.

   how uncertain, insecure, and short-term all things upon earth really are

Let me read you affirmation of Peter’s words from elsewhere in Scripture. I’ll just quickly read them, so don’t bother trying to look them up. You may want to not the references so you can look them up later:

 " We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon without a trace. " (1 Chron. 29:15).

 

" Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don't ignore my tears. For I am your guest— a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me." (Psalm 39:12).


"I am but a foreigner here on earth; I need the guidance of your commands. Don't hide them from me! " (Psalm 119:19).

AGAIN, REMEMBER  THAT WE ARE NOT HOME YET. HEAVEN IS OUR HOME

 

A.BELIEVERS ARE THE ELECT

One distinctive of all Christians is that we are chosen of God. It has often been said that “we may not be good but we are God’s”.

This word “election” seems to cause more questions than it gives answers for some people. Many can’t grasp the teaching that God has chosen some for eternal salvation, with the teaching that man has a free will and must chose for himself. Basically the only reason for the confusion is that people are inclined to take the extreme position. Some say that God, in eternity past, chose some people to be saved and some to be damned. These people put all the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and deny man’s free will. As one man said, “Man doesn’t even have the ability to choose yes or no as far as his relationship with God is concerned.” By saying and preaching that, people are relieved of any responsibility whatsoever for their souls or the soul of anyone else.

Other emphasize the free will so much that the poor Christian is saved today, lost tomorrow, and then saved again and his only assurance is his own faith, not God’s faithfulness.

Election and free will are both taught in the Bible. There is no doubt that God’s word teaches that God has chosen some to be saved, but that no one is saved unless he makes a free will decision of his own, however, it is clear that God’s desire is that all be saved  Ephesians 2:8 says “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”  2 Peter 3:9 adds: The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. 1 Timothy 2:4 affirms this desire by adding:  for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Ephesians 1:45 says: “ Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy (separated and set apart unto Himself) and without fault in his eyes.
His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure
.( God has called believers to turn away from the old life that showed hatred toward God, the old life that rejected, rebelled, ignored, denied, and was constantly cursing in the face of God. God has called believers to be the beloved of God, the persons who receive His love in Christ Jesus and who allow Him to shower His love upon them.)

 From this and 1 Peter 1:1-2 we learn four things:

1. God elected (chose) some to be saved.  He knew who would be saved.                                                        2. His election was not based upon any merit He saw in man, but grounded entirely in His good pleasure.                                                         3. This election took place in eternity past, before the worlds were created.                                                                                                        4. God’s election is “according to foreknowledge.”

All this means is that God’s election and foreknowledge are in complete harmony. (Foreknowledge can mean two things. First, foreknowledge means that God sees the future. No matter how far a person looks into the future, God has already seen it. God knows...

  exactly what will happen, every single event and consequence.

  exactly what could happen (but will not), every single possibility and its consequences.                                                               Foreknowledge means that God knows exactly what all men will do, every single act and consequence. God has one supreme overall view of all things—all things past, present, and future. But note: in this meaning foreknowledge does not determine anything; it only faces and forecasts what shall be) We can also be assured that if God loves believers this much, enough to actually choose and elect them to be His very own holy and beloved people, then God will look after and take care of them. No matter how ridiculed, abused, and persecuted—no matter how poor, hungry, troubled, and distressed—no matter how great the hardship, God will meet the need of the dear believer, the one whom He has elected to be His own.

Let’s take a quick look a Thessalonians 2:13  for more on this subject
” As for us, we always thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation, a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and by your belief in the truth.”                                                                                                                       Thessalonian believers were suffering trouble and persecution even as these believers were. The truths of election and predestination were used by both Paul and Peter to encourage believers when they were suffering great trouble and hardship. These are wonderful truths to encourage us when we have to face the great trials of this world.

On the other hand, God’s Word teaches that man has his own individual responsibility to choose to be saved. Time and time again the Lord invited people to believe and be saved. John 3:16 presupposes the free will of man and so does Romans 10:13 ( For "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." ) Revelation 22:17 gives a glorious invitation ( The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let each one who hears them say, "Come." Let the thirsty ones come—anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge. )

So, there we have both the election of God and the free will of man taught in the Bible regarding salvation. John 6:37 even puts both together, and it happens to be Jesus Himself speaking. “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.” God does His part and we must do ours. He does the electing but we must receive the salvation He offers to us in Christ Jesus.

I think that a good illustration of these truths is a railroad. Trains need to stay on both tracks. Let’s call one rail election and the other free will. The teaching of God’s Word needs both rails. If you remove the rail of man’s free will, you crash into the ditch of fatalism. If you remove the rail of God’s sovereign election, you will find yourself in the mire of works salvation and fearful insecurity. Both sides of the truth must be accepted an believed. If we look down both tracks as far as we can see we will see that they meet and seem to form a single line on the horizon. So it is that free will and election find harmony in the mind of God.

If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are elect, according to the foreknowledge of God, just as Peter wrote.

What an encouragement it must have been to the believers in Asia Minor to be able to say in the face of persecution and problems; “God knew me before the foundation of the world, He singled me out, along with many others to be one of His own. He destined me to share the full glories of His redemption. I responded, and now the promises of the Bible are mine. I can stand undaunted in Christ, whatever may come my way!

This election cannot be lost!

B. PILGRIMS AND ALIENS

A second identifying mark of Christians is that we are foreigners (strangers in the KJV and aliens in the NASB)

This pretty well describes what the relationship of Christians should be to the world in which we live – in it but not of it. We’re not fugitives running from home. Not just strangers – away from home. Not vagabonds – who have no home, but pilgrims – on our way home. Hallelujah!. Elected by God and redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ, we have become citizens of heaven.

As Paul says in Philippians 3:20-21 (summarized), “This world is not my home I’m just a passin’through!”

Hebrews 13:14 says: “ For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.”

As pilgrims we are walking by faith through foreign territory on our way to heaven, our eternal home. As aliens we ought not to count it strange when the allies of this land become hostile with us. In a sense we don’t belong in their land. We are strangers (or certainly should be!) strangers to this world’s VALUE SYATEM AND LIFE STYLE). We shouldn’t feel too much at home down here. If we do we need to be reminded that our citizenship is in heaven. Let’s beware lest the world in which we live corrupts our value system and our identity as God’s children fades out of sight. There ought to be a very obvious difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. It will show up not only on Halloween, Christmas, and Easter but every day.

We are not vagabonds wandering aimlessly through life but we have our eyes set on the heavenly home and the New Jerusalem. We are down here under the orders of our King and must carry out those orders until He calls us home.

An unbelieving government official of Peter’s day wrote and described early believers in Peter’s day with theses words:

“Christians are not marked out from the rest of mankind by their country or their speech or their customs … They dwell in cities both Greek and barbarian, each as his lot is cast, following the customs of the region in clothing and in food and in the outward things of life generally; yet they manifest the wonderful and openly paradoxical character of their own state. They inhabit the lands of their birth, but as temporary residents thereof; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens, and endure all disabilities as aliens. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land is their foreign land …. They pass their days upon earth but their citizenship is in heaven.” That should also be said of each of us, for we are God’s plan for Millet!

We can be sure that the early church people that heard these words of Peter in verses one and two were comforted to once again glory in the fact of whose they were and to whom they belong. Think it not strange when the worldly minded people find fault with the believers. This is only natural since you are a foreigner to them.  Another thing we can take comfort in is that present suffering is only temporary and that it will fade as does this life, but a wonderful eternity in heaven awaits us.

Thirdly, Peter addresses the hurting believers as …

C. SAINTS

In addition to identifying Christians as the elect of God and aliens in the world, Peter also referred to them as saints –“chosen through the Saint –making work of the Spirit” The root for “sanctification” is the same as for the word “saint”. The basic idea is that of being set apart unto God.

We are set apart or sanctified by the Holy Spirit for the worship and service of God and we belong to God in a very unique way.

You are a saint the moment you are saved!

A missionary in South America told about a great cathedral that had been completed recently, but could not be used for religious festivals because the status of certain “saints” had not yet arrived. The missionary then added, “Yet just down the street from that magnificent structure a group of the city’s poorest people were meeting in a small storefront mission. In their simple services, saints were being made every day as men and women gave their hearts to Jesus Christ.” Everyone who has accepted Him as personal Savior is a saint.

Sometimes, however the saints are not too saintly. I don’t think this was any surprise to Peter for he stated that we are chosen by God and sanctified by the Spirit unto two things a. obedience and b. unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’m not just a sinner saved by grace.  I was a sinner. I was saved by grace. Now I’m a saint and even though I do still sin at times, I’m forgiven and remain a saint.

a. Unto obedience

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us or sets us apart so that we will live a life that is pleasing in His sight; that is a life of obedience. Those who struggle with election vs free will really struggle with obedience. A life of obedience is a life lived in keeping with the principles revealed in God’s  Word. Our homes should reflect His presence. Our churches should be characterized by humility, cooperation, and love. We should obey the laws of our community and set a good example. Why? Because ultimately, in all these areas, we are rendering obedience unto the Lord.

But we are also sanctified by the Spirit ..

b. Unto Sprinkling

What does this mean? It means to be justified by His blood. As Romans 5:9 says: “ And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's judgment.” We have broken the law of God. We have neglected God, ignored God, cursed God, rebelled against God, and rejected God. We have chosen to live like we want to, to do our own thing, and we have refused to live like God says. Therefore , we stand before the law of God guilty. As with all law, we must bear …

1.     the penalty of the law

2.     the judgment of the law

3.     the condemnation of the law

4.     the punishment of the law

5.     the wrath of the law

We stand before the wrath of God – His law, His justice – and there is no escape. We have broken the law of God; therefore the penalty has to be paid. But this is the glorious gospel: Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for us. He has stepped forth and offered His life as a substitute and sacrifice for us. He has borne the judgment and condemnation of our transgression. How could He do this? Because He was the Son of God and He lived a perfect and sinless life when He was upon earth. He stood before God as the Perfect and Ideal Man, as the Ideal Righteousness that could cover all man. Consequently, when He died on the cross, His death was the perfect and ideal sacrifice for sins. His blood – the blood He shed for us – was the perfect and ideal sacrifice for transgressions. Therefore, His blood can cover us and all of our transgressions.

This is the way we are saved and the way we receive eternal life; this way we are made acceptable to God: by being sprinkled or covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ covers all our transgressions and makes us guiltless before God – perfect and acceptable to Him.

So, yes, even though we are set apart as saints unto God we still sin occasionally Jesus’ death on the cross has covered all of our sins – past, present, and future. We have daily cleansing for our daily sins. This is a blessed privilege and one that we should not take lightly for it is what keeps us in fellowship with God. It enables us to maintain the highest and sweetest relationship with our Savior.

CONCLUSION

What an encouragement this letter must have been to these new Christians! Every Christian is a highly privileged person for he has been a part of God’s eternal plan from eternity past. Though millions and millions of people have been born into this world, God chose you to be His child and to let you represent Him on this earth.

You have been chosen just as you are / with the few or no talents that you have / looking like you do / and with the health that you put up with or enjoy / you have been chosen to be used of God in this life and in the life to come

Furthermore, you are just a sojourner or pilgrim down here, for your real home is in heaven and that is where your citizenship is. Don’t be surprised if some of the allies of this land consider you out of place, you are! But thank God for it too! It won’t be long and we’ll be going home – some of us sooner than others. And then, what a glorious honor it is to be set apart for the service of the Lord. Perhaps you feel like the piano bench, or this pulpit, or like a screw in one of the chairs (You have a point but nobody sees it) but you are set apart for the service of the Lord and you will always be in His presence to glorify His name.

What assurance these verses give us.

What a peaceful sense of belonging.

Elected by the Father.

Sanctified by God the Spirit so we can walk in obedience to the Son.

God is for you, not against you.

Amen.

1. They are believers, believers who are only strangers scattered over the earth (v.1)A.

.

2. They are people elected by God (v.2)

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