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Grace with Purpose

1 Peter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Living Stones Don’t Lie Around

When the learned, and wealthy John Selden was dying he said to Archbishop Usher, “I have surveyed most of the learning that is among the sons of men, and my study is filled with books and manuscripts (he had 8000 volumes in his library) on various subjects. But at present I cannot recollect any passage out of all my books and papers whereon I can rest my soul, save this from the sacred Scriptures:

“’The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works’ ” (Titus 2:14).

1 Peter 2:1–5 ESV
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:1-5
The world has a saying - “Game knows game.” I remember, as a young holiness preacher, being told that worldly people can spot a fake a mile away, because they know their own. It sometimes irritates us when an unsaved person sets themselves as judge and jury over the Church, pointing out what that person calls our “hypocrisy.” If we were bothered for the right reason though, our response wouldn’t be to “silence the messenger.”
The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VI discusses a curious question regarding how the Law of God works in our lives as Christians. In paragraph 22 it states, “However, the law does not teach how and why the good works of believers are pleasing and acceptable to God, even though in this life they are in fact imperfect and impure because of the sinfulness of the flesh. The law demands total, perfect, pure obedience if it is to please God. Instead, the gospel teaches that our “spiritual sacrifices” are pleasing to God “through faith” “because of Christ” ([:5*]; [:4*; cf. 13:15*]).
Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 591). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Hypocrisy comes from a Greek word that describes the work of an actor in a play. The hypocrite does in real life what the actor does on stage - he plays a character. What makes the action acceptable for our entertainment but not in real life is the context: We understand that the actor is not being himself, but following a script. Real life, however, is not a play, and, I think that, because of our created nature, “made in the image of God” the work of the Law, discussed by Pau in , alerts us regarding things that are contrary to God’s holy nature, even though our corrupted fleshly nature cannot perfectly operate in accordance with that image.
As “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phi 2:15), God has, though His adoption of us by holy baptism, given us a status, and placed within us the transformative Seed, that causes us to stand out against the corrupt background of a rebellious world. In fact, whether we like it or not, we are marked men and women.

The Power of Milk

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
There was an ad campaign that had as its catch-phrase, “Milk does a body good - pass it on.” In each series of commercials, a person, starting out as a child, would tell a companion why it was important that he or she drink milk. It would usually end with that person, as an adult, doing something spectacular, leaving the other person craving a glass for themselves.
What natural milk has , imperfectly, potential to do for the natural life, the “pure spiritual milk” of the Gospel does for the spiritual life of the Christian. It enables us to “grow up into salvation.” By it, the Law is transformed from being a restrictive boundary marker into a gracious guide. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (). Pastor and author Keith DeYoung wrote recently that “No one who truly delights in God's word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.” The Holy Spirit, given to us by God, leads us, not only to personal piety - and there is nothing wrong with piety, rightly grounded in the grace of God - but He will also lead us into a manifestation of God’s love that actively resists evil in the world rather than passively observes it. Jesus came, not to curse the darkness, but to expose and defeat it. He died, not as a courageous philosopher, but as the suffering Savior. He rose, not because He cheated death, but because He defeated it.
He is the Living Stone (v 4), who by His Spirit builds us up as living stones into a spiritual house in which He dwells (v 5). His exceeding great and precious promises empower us, not only to accept death, but to stand as more than conquerors over it, so that the fear of death would no longer cause us to cower in fear in the face of evil, whether within our hearts, or in our community.
Is Jesus Christ Lord of All?
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Pastor and author Keith DeYoung wrote recently that “No one who truly delights in God's word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.”
Is Jesus Christ Lord of [Church}?
Then we cannot sit idly by as those who gather in it or live around it go through life blissfully unaware of the impact of His gracious gifts of forgiveness and fellowship. We should express, not in Word only, but in service, in stewardship, and in fellowship, that “He is Risen; He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!”
Is Jesus Christ Lord of [neighborhood]?
Then sin cannot be ignored, tolerated, or accepted as the “order of the day.” Injustice cannot be “the cost of doing business” when Christ died to establish justice, as Paul wrote in , quoting , “And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”
Is Jesus Christ Lord of [City]?
Then is as true for the governing authorities of Gary - and this nation - as it was for those of Rome, as it is written, “For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” If we don’t see that in action today, then we must work to see it in action tomorrow. We cannot stand by , saying that we will understand it better by and by, when God has equipped us to have a walk that is worthy of Him by the power of His Spirit, and has established us in the Faith by His Holy Word.
S h
Is Jesus Christ Lord of All?
Then “Witness - Mercy - Life Together” is not a catchy slogan of a Synod seeking to re-establish a presence in a city where it once exercised influence; it is the paradigm under which we love our neighbors as ourselves, both those in the Body of Christ, and those who can be in the Body of Christ. The forgiveness of sins purchased by Christ with His own blood enables us to Boldly Go and make disciples of all the nations. Our justification that is vouchsafed by His resurrection enables us to boldly go before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, not only as supplicants for ourselves, but to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” ().
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Our Lord Jesus Christ freely gives Himself to us in Word and Sacrament, so that we can be free indeed, “for whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (). with your time, your talents, and your treasure, because you can’t take any of them with you, either to the grave or to Glory.
That’s grace with purpose, Christ in you, the hope of glory. That is the fruit of the Gospel in our lives, our homes, our church, and our community. We are well able, not because we will to do so, but because God wills that we do so, and has empowered us to do so. So go in grace, and let the peace of God, that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds though Christ Jesus.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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