Dwight Eisenhower was the supreme allied commander of the War in Europe.
He oversaw the largest logistics feat in human history…called operation Overlord, that began on what we call D-day.
Two million men were landed on the European continent in two months…each soldier required 41 pounds of daily supplies from fuel to bullets to food.
40,000 tons of supplies per day.
He had to deal with an enormous number of real-world details…including the terrible fact that the number of body bags that were estimated to be needed fell short of actual requirements.
Eisenhower had to deal with the facts, with reality as it is…lives, civilization as we know it depended on it…yet.
He kept seven lucky coins in his pocket that he rubbed continuously.
Nervous habit? Perhaps…but more likely he actually believed in luck.
I’ve known many a very smart and successful leader who actually believed in superstitions.
If quizzed…”How do you think rubbing that coin or knocking on wood actually impacts events in the world?”
They would laugh…but yet, they continue to do it.
What if Eisenhower…had refused to accept realities he did not like as he led the allies against a murderous tyranny?
What if he just trusted his lucky coins not the actual facts?
It would not have gone well…he lived on the right side of the “what is real and what I want to be real” spectrum.
He rubbed his lucky coins in hopes that they would impact the weather…they didn’t…so he submitted to the facts of weather as they actually were…. he delayed the D-Day landing until the weather facts, not his weather wishes, were more in his favor.
Hitler on the other hand lived almost entirely(at least at the end) on the “wish side” of things…reality, facts…didn’t matter to him.
His commanders learned the hard way, to not bring him facts of reality, if those facts contradicted what he wanted to be true.
But as allied troops surrounded Berlin, and he took his life in a bunker, reality, in the end, won.
It always does.
Something is true and everything that it not that, is untrue.
If it is true that all that exists is stuff…then materialism(or atheism) is true and it is untrue that anything ultimately matters.
If it is true that all roads lead to one, that all religions are true in their own way…then it is untrue that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life…no one gets to God except through him.
Something is true and everything that is not that, is untrue…there is no way around this.
It is a not a question of what we want to be true…or how we feel about what is true…it is always only a question of “what is actually true?”
If we don’t like the idea of an authoritative Bible, a Triune God, a savior on a cross paying for human sin, a real hell…well, okay.
But what does what we want to be true or not true, have to do with what is actually true?
Nothing at all.
This seems like it should non-controversial…but then, we humans like our lucky coins.
It commonly believed that truth is something we can make conform to our demands.
There are times when we have strong feelings, like “I don’t want this to be true.”
This is normal, especially when we suffer.
*I once sat up all night with a young lady whose husband of 2 days had an aneurism in his brain.
Fact is, he was gone, keep alive by machines…but I sat with her through the long night so she could come to grips just a little bit with the fact that what she desperately did not want to be true, was in fact true…in the morning…she reluctantly accepted a difficult truth.
When we attempt to live our lives refusing to submit to what is true…we are attempting to live consistently outside of reality…this will not go well for us.
Most people live in a sort of half-way house between wishful thinking and reality.
Those who live entirely in their own wish-world cease to function in the real world.
Peter, was convinced, for good reason, that Jesus is the center of reality…and that what Jesus said about life, death, purpose, meaning…was truth.
And that he was more than a moral teacher, an example to be followed…he is the meaning of human existence…he is the Lord, creator of the universe.
And he is alive and able to be loved, and related to.
He is the meaning of human history going back and going forward.
This is astounding…and it has always been controversial.
But again, everyone believes that something is true, real…and what is not that…is untrue.
Jesus is the singularity in human history who conclusively determines what it means to live our lives in truth, reality.
He is the way and the truth and the life.
- If you have never committed your life to Christ, if you have yet to be what Jesus called “Born again”…I pray you will see that this is as step one of living in reality…living in the truth
*The ongoing choice to not chose is a choice.
*If you have not chosen to follow Christ…I pray you will today, or very soon.
*You don’t drift into the Kingdom…you must place your faith in Christ.
*If you are an unsure about what that means…let us know, or a friend who knows Christ…they can more fully explain the gospel to you.
- If you have been born again, if you are a follower of Christ…my prayer is that you would move farther into truth today.
Let’s to to 1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Praising God is essential when we are weighed down by suffering.
The church was enduring trouble…and it was about to get worse.
They needed to make praise reflexive.
When you have had surgery the last thing you want to do is move, but you must if you hope to get better.
And it can be true, often is, that offering praise to God during times of trouble…is like trying to get up and move after surgery.
But it must be done if we are to live in the world as it is…it must be done if we are going to “get better”…recover hope and perspective.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
- God has given us new birth through Christ into a living hope.
*A living thing grows, it increases, it develops over time…such is our hope. It is alive.
*This ongoing increase in hope over time is one evidence of personal spiritual growth.
*Many older Christians find their hope increasing as they approach death…this is not surprising.
Because our hope is alive and growing…because …
- Our inheritance is eternally secure: he gives some words to describe it:
*Imperishable: Not susceptible to decay, it will not suffer the ravages of time.
-We don’t have to desperately try to hold on to something that cannot endure.
*Undefiled: It cannot be spoiled or tainted by human sin.
-All of God’s good gifts now are prone to be misused and defiled…we mess them up.
-This inheritance will not turn bad in the end.
*Unfading: It will never lose its beauty or appeal. We will never tire of it, or wish for more.
*Kept in heaven for you: The verb indicates a completed past action by God with results that continue in the present.
-We don’t have to wonder…will something change?
-What if I bet my life on this and it fails, or I fail? It is a sure bet, the only one.
So, praise God…
- He has given us new birth through Christ into a living hope.
- Our inheritance is eternally secure
- It does not depend on our strength or ability to endure
Peter’s readers had to wonder, like we often do, if they would be able to endure if the trials became more intense.
Peter assures them that they are being guarded by God’s power.
The word is a military one…God’s power stands guard over our faith.
*There have been times when I wondered if I will have the ability to stay faithfulful through what is happening in my life or might happen.
During those times…I have often quoted Paul to myself,
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Phil. 1:2-
Who knows if he or she can or will be faithful no matter what happens.
“Terry, Don’t you trust God?”
I do, I don’t trust myself.
I know God is sufficient…but will I trust him when I most need to trust him?
Many times…I have said this to myself…I eagerly expect and hope.
My expectation, my hope, is not in my faith, or endurance…but in God’s promise to stand guard over my faith.
*I trust God, that I will be able to trust God, when I must need to trust God.
I will have sufficient (enough) courage…to honor Christ in life and in death.
*I do well thinking of trusting God in the future, when I am actively trusting him in the present.
Peter is giving the same encouragement here…we are being kept by God’s power…until the final act of our salvation.
Peter has described the full course of salvation:
We have been saved.
-He has caused us to be born again…all his work
We are being saved.
-Into a living hope…growth over time…collaboration with God
We will be saved.
-Guarded until our salvation is revealed (completed) in the last time…again all his doing.
Three movements in a single salvation sonata.
Or to use last week’s phrase…this is inaugurated eschatology…Our salvation is already/Not Yet
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“This” refers to all we have discussed this far…all this is cause for rejoicing, for thanking God…even though now…for a little while…when necessary…we are grieved by various trials.
Peter assumes that this continual rejoicing in heavenly realities is going to be a normal part of the Christian’s life…or at least he is casting vision for that to become a normal part.
If that is not our experience…then we must see this as opportunity to grow…and investigate what might be getting in the way of this as a going reality in our lives.
Three things about this passage:
- He is speaking comparatively…compared to eternity…when he writes “for a little while.”
Paul uses the phrase “light and momentary” when comparing our grief now to the timeless and weighty glory of eternity.
*We all know that when we are grieved by trials, time seems to come to a dead stop…there is nothing “little while” about them.
But this is part of what an eternal perspective can do…it can help us see our temporary grief (that seems to go and on) with eternity in mind.
It doesn’t mean that time will speed up when we are suffering…but it will lead to growing our hope even during times that grieve us.
- Peter qualifies these trials as “when necessary”…this means that God has a larger purpose in them.
-Our trials are sometimes necessary for God’s purposes in our lives and in the world…we won’t always know that purpose in detail…but…
-Part of that purpose is revealed in this passage, “The tested genuiness of our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. “
He says our faith is more precious than gold, which perishes though it is tested by fire.
Gold, is in fact, unable to be destroyed by fire…it is an amazing precious metal.
Peter was aware that gold doesn’t “burn”…but at the end of all things…not even gold will survive…only faith, trust in God will.
Our faith is more precious than gold…it alone will survive death and the end of all things.
Our faith, when God sees it necessary to test it…will lead to God’s glory in the end.
- We are grieved for a little while, for eternal good…in VARIOUS trials.
-It’s not just terrible physical suffering, or loss that is unbearable.
-Peter is, I think, intentionally using a phrase that covers all the things that might grieve us.
*We are not to compare our grief and suffering to that of others…and attempt to rank it.
-“mine is worse…what is wrong with them?”
-“Theirs is much worse…what is wrong with me?”
We cannot turn our focus to self, or to comparing self with others…this is not going to lead to resilient hope.
In all of what grieves us…we are to turn to God in praise.
We have to train ourselves to give continual thanks for our enduring inheritance.
- God has given us new birth through Christ into a living hope.
- Our inheritance is eternally secure
- It does not depend on our strength or ability to endure
We have this hope as an objective reality…it is something independent of our moods and emotions.
Whether we feel hopeful or not…we have hope.
But this is, a living hope…a growing, living relationship…it is not less than facts, but it is not just facts.
-Fact: I married Christy, in Joplin, MO in 1983.
-More than that fact: My love for her has grown in my experience, in my heart, my feelings for her are deeper, more mature.
Our relationship is a fact that that can be written on a piece of paper…stated in sentence…but it is much more than that fact.
What he writes next, is for me, one of the most fascinating passages in the Bible.
I memorized it many years ago…and I have mulled it over in my mind for all these years.
But I have yet to get my mind around it.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
What Peter writes here is connected to what has come before it.
This experience he writes of…is tied to the continual rejoicing in heavenly realities that Peter expects to be a normal part of the Christian’s life.
This experience of joy…is directly tied to the choice to continually give thanks for our enduring inheritance.
To keep setting our thoughts on eternity.
Though you have not seen him, you love him.
Peter had seen Jesus, they had not.
Though they had not seen him, they loved him
Though they didn’t see him walking around amongst them…they put their faith in him and experienced a kind of joy that is inexpressible.
This joy, Peter writes, was a practical, experiential aspect of their salvation…it is part of the “already.”
Knowing that the first century church was made up of real people just like us…this is partly Peter vision casting for what could be or should be true.
Some were no doubt, living in this experiential joy…some were not yet…some probably were phasing in and out depending on their own choices.
Which leads me to an important point of perspective: Do not discount something just because it has not been your experience.
*A friend struggled deeply with doubt because he had not had the same experiences with God that others had (or he thought they had)
*Part was that he was focused on comparing his experience to others.
*Part of it may be that he didn’t endure long enough to mature.
He was comparing himself with those who had walked with God longer than he had.
Maturing is Enduring…enduring is maturing
*Friday night, I had dinner with two friends…one spoke of the deep and inexpressible joy he has in times with Jesus.
*You might say…”I want that”…well…he is older, he has suffered a great deal, and he has consistently chosen to trust God and to show up in time with God.
Be careful to not discount something that you have yet to experience…start with God’s word, not your own experiences.
A fruit tree has to mature in order to bear fruit.
Often what happens is there is an initial burst of emotion, passion, enthusiasm for the new believer…like a new tree sprouting from the earth.
This is followed by a longer time of the tree maturing…the trunk and branches develop the strength to sustain the coming fruit…the green wood turns brown.
This period is not very exciting…and some check out before the fruit appears.
So, Paul warned…
“Do not become weary in doing good, at the proper time (God’s time) you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.”
So, how do we make this experience more fully, more consistently ours.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him, believe in him…and are experiencing his joy?”
How do you love someone you have not seen?
The person without sight…can love as deeply as the one who has sight…clearly seeing is not essential for loving.
*Seeing is not believing: Remember, many saw Jesus in the flesh and refused to follow him.
But knowing is essential for loving.
How do you know him?
- His word: Through reading his word…not just the words of Jesus in the gospels, but all of the Bible is his word.
*If you want to love Jesus…you must spend time reading his word, the Bible.
*There you will learn what he values, his will and his ways.
In the next chapter Peter writes:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
This spiritual milk is God’s word…we grow up through a diet of his word.
*If you want to know and love him…learn to read and understand his word
*The class Trace is teaching is not for scholars…it is designed to help you learn how to feed yourself from God’s word.
*The most important book I ever read concerning the Bible is “How to read the Bible for all its worth”
-I first read it 40 years ago…and several times since.
*Many books, I’ve read, have fed me, this book taught me how to feed myself.
*It is worth the effort to learn to understand the Bible
*You must know Jesus as he has revealed himself in his word, the Bible.
- His people: You can love him by spending time with other people who know him
*As you see what he has and is doing in the lives of others…you can love him, because you see his goodness there.
*When my oldest friends get together…we often tell stories of what Jesus has done.
*When the evening is over…I tend to have more affection for my friends…and for Jesus.
Philemon 1:6…I pray you wil be active.
- Walk in his ways: This love for him comes through obedience
*”Even now, You believe in him”…doesn’t just mean an intellectual thing…”I believe in gravity.”
It is to place your trust or confidence in him…this is the kind of belief that leads to following him.
Love grows experientially as we obey him…our hearts, emotionally…follow our investments.
As we give our time, our resources, our efforts, our choices…to what he has called us to…this living hope grows in us.
If we do not engage people for the sake of the gospel…in evangelism, discipleship, relationship (this is a key part of our obedience)…our hope will shrink…and we will not experience this inexpressible joy.
John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me as Scripture says, out of them will flow rivers of living water.”
*This outflow is love expressed in personally ministry to others.
What does Peter mean by “you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls?”
It means that our experience of salvation is not just past and future…there is an “already” sense of it now.
While we are not to chase experiences or emotions…this is a trap and diversion…more on that in a moment.
As we choose to give God praise for our enduring inheritance, as we set our minds (as Paul wrote) on things above…as we live lives of faithful engagement…we will experience God in real and personal ways.
Our hope and our joy will be a living, growing thing.
Imagine if you have been planning for years to go on a trip.
-You think about it…a lot
-You invest in it…time, money, energy
-You study it…what will be like there?
-You long for it…I can’t wait!
-The joy of all that investment in a future event impacts you now.
*On a cold, stressful day in February…thoughts of what is to come…can infuse your heart with joy.
That is how the human heart is wired…and what we are to set our hopes on is something that is: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…a future reality that is to impact life now…but we have to continually “set our minds on things above.”
As spiritual/physical hybrids we must think carefully about joy…both as an objective reality independent of feelings and as an emotional experience that is a part of our lives now.
The Second Great Awakening was a series of events from around 1790-1840…it had profound spiritual, and cultural impact on the nation.
It occurred in Metro areas and college campuses like Yale…but mostly in rural areas where thousands would gather to hear preaching in open fields.
I am convinced, that it was a remarkable work of God…and at the same time, there was a lot of theological and moral distortion in the movement.
At some of the large rural events (that had a sort of county fair feel) …prostitutes would sometimes position themselves on the perimeter in order to collect customers coming off an emotional and/or Spiritual high…there experience made some of them more vulnerable.
If you have heard of or seen the movie, Jesus Revolution, the same kinds of things happened during that time.
I don’t say this to shock you or make you cynical…we are hybrids.
Our emotions are a part of us as embodied spiritual beings.
God was at work in these movements…but it can be a short distance between an emotion as a result of experiencing God and an emotion that drives terrible human behaviors.
If you feel you lack what Peter calls “an inexpressible and glorious joy” what are we to do?
You don’t seek feelings of joy.
Pursue Jesus as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture.
Praise God for what he has done for you in Christ.
Rejoice in God even though you may have to grieve all kinds of trials.
Pursue God like this and you will grow in his joy…
*deep faith roots lead to experiential faith fruits.
*That sounds clichish…but it is true.
I’ve been asked what I think of the recent revival at Asbury college.
- I think ideally there would be no need for “re-vival” if we could live in “vival.”
-If a Christian would live in ongoing life with Christ…vival…there would be no need to “revival”
*Awakenings were more about God’s larger movements in culture…Christians, non-Christians, and social structural changes being impacted.
- Since there is often a need for “re-viving” spiritual life…the most important result of something happening today (revival) would be its fruit in a year or ten or twenty.
*I’ve had personal experiences that are not able to be explained by merely human means…there would not be science to say “Here’s how this is explained apart from God”
They have never been as a result of seeking experiences…and they have never “fixed me.”
Meaning…no experience, however profound means I didn’t have to get up the next and choose to trust and obey Jesus.
*No experience will transport you from the “already to the not yet”…except for the experience of death.
Lonny Frisbee…one of the key figures in the movement described in the Jesus Revolution movie…died of aids as a result of re-turning to his former immoral lifestyle…drugs and illicit sex.
This doesn’t mean that his conversion was not real or that God did not use him.
It means that there is such a thing as “revival” and such a thing as “unvival”…turning away from life with Christ back to the death ways of the old life.
**Grow your hope…pursue Jesus…if you collect emotions, put them in your backpack and keep walking.
They are the goal…the fruit, not the root of your faith.
Don’t become either a skeptic of experience…or an experience addict…both paths are bad.
Rejoice in God, though you may have to suffer grief in trials…love him, though you have not seen him, obey though you do not see him know.
Be filled with his joy.