Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Inexpressible and glorious joy

1 Peter 1:3 – 9

I.    We can wallow in sorrow but plant the seeds of love and trust and you get joy.

    A.    Peter was not writing in a vacuum.

        1.    Emperor Nero unleashed massive and hideous persecutions on Christians.

            a.    The death of Christians was public entertainment.

            b.    Nero did tolerate Christians that obtained a license.

                1.)    Appear before Roman governor (or agent) once a year, offer a tiny bit of incense on an alter, and declare “Caesar is Lord.”

                2.)    Early Christian test, “Jesus is Lord.” [Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3]

        2.    It had to have been difficult.  Different people chose different routes.

            a.    You could chose the “safe” way and get a license (but betray Jesus).

            b.    You could choose the trial.

    B.    Peter suggests that suffering is an indispensable factor in the Christian life.

        1.    Suffering is the context/contrast for joy.  Why?

            a.    Suffering is the refiner’s fire. [v 7]

                1.)    The refining process exposed (to be skimmed off) or burned off impurities.

                2.)    The purer the gold the more precious it becomes.

            b.    Suffering proves our faith.

                1.)    What is faith?

                    a.)    Faith is “healthy self-doubt.”  We learn to trust God instead.

                    b.)    Faith is “self-surrender.”   Rather than fighting what God is doing.

                    c.)    Faith is “yielding the will.”   

                    d.)    Faith is “risky.”  (Ill.) Abraham didn’t know where he was going, how long he would be gone, what he would do.  (Heb. 11:13, he was still “going” when he died... had not reached the goal...)

                2.)    Howe does suffering prove our faith?

                    a.)    There is a progression. [v 8]

                    b.)    Love produces trust, trust produces joy.

        2.    Joy is expressed in praise to God. [v 3]

II.    God did more than forgive, He offered us “new life.”

    A.    Inexpressible and glorious joy is based on the mercy of God.

        1.    [v 3] “great mercy” gives the impression that it is beyond our ability to understand.

            a.    [v 3] “new birth”

                1.)    BEFORE we were “dead in (our) sins,” unable to respond to God... uninterested in spiritual matters.

                2.)    AFTER we are “alive to God,” we hear God and respond... We become a different person. [2 Corinthians 5:17]

            b.    [v 3] “living hope”

                1.)    Unquenchable and great expectations.

                2.)    We have everything to hope for... because of the resurrection of Jesus.

        2.    [v 4] “inheritance”

            a.    It does not “perish” (die or decay).

            b.    It does not “spoil” (become defiled, rot)

            c.    It does not “fade.”

The end result of all this is joy.

    B.    That means suffering has a purpose.

        1.    The key idea is discipline.

            a.    Discipline means we do what we don’t feel like doing for a greater good, or to achieve an goal.

                1.)    Unfortunately we live in an “entitlement” society.

                2.)    We think we are “entitled” to a good job, love, or success.

            b.    Discipline means we practice joy in the face of grief.

                1.)    Joy is a choice... but it is not artificial or manufactured.

                2.)    Joy puts the focus where it should be. [v 9]

[v 9] “for you are receiving the result of your faith, THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS.”

        2.    The reality of suffering is that it is temporary.

            a.    It may be “life-long but temporary.”

                1.)    This physical existence is NOT all there is...

                2.)    Compare the 100 years we might live to the uncountable years of eternity.

            b.    There is a hope for “tomorrow.”

                1.)    (Ill.) From Anne... “The sun will come out tomorrow...”

                2.)    “Biblical optimism” not delusion or “pie in the sky.”

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” [Philippians 1:21]

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” [Psalm 30:5b]

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” [Lamentations 3:22 – 23 ESV]

III.    Joy is the result.

    A.    “Inexpressible and glorious joy”

        1.    It is a continuous, progressive and growing joy.

            a.    Biblically speaking “believing is receiving.”

            b.    If you believe you are receiving, this is NOT just for the future.

(Ill.) “If its going to be funny later, its funny now.”  Reality... “We are going to be joyful later, its joyful now.”

        2.    Have you ever been so happy you couldn’t put it into words?

            a.    Maybe you shouted.

            b.    Maybe you sat in awe and wonder.

    B.    If trust breathes joy, then this is the norm for the Christ-follower.

        1.    When you entered into a right relationship with God:

            a.    You became aware (possibly painfully aware) of the gap between you and God.

            b.    You may have been uncomfortable as you realized God was inviting you to close the gap by moving toward you.

            c.    You say yourself, the ugliness of sin, and were uncomfortable.

            d.    Sensing God’s loving-kindness and the possibilities of being forgiven you began to trust God and love God back.

            e.    You felt the release of forgiveness and the joy of God’s presence.

        2.    What to do?

            a.    Joy comes from the hope based on the mercy of God.

                1.)    What is your relationship with God?

                2.)    Do you trust God to finish what He started?

            b.    Joy comes from knowing the end result (the salvation of your soul).

                1.)    (Ill.) If you travel forward and back in time and see...  I was watching the Detroit Lions play.  They were 17 points down... anguish.  Watching the game re-broadcasted there was glee at that point.  Why? Because I had already seen the final result (Lions won).

                2.)    Joy is a matter of perspective (point of view)... it is seeing life from God’s perspective, not yours.

            c.    Joy is a fruit, a gift and a discipline.

                1.)    As a discipline, it means deliberately looking beyond the circumstances.

                2.)    As a discipline, it takes constant and regular attention and energy.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. [17] For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. [18] So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18]

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