Monday, July 07, 2008

What does “Christian perfection” look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18

What does “Christian perfection” look like?

John Wesley – “Rejoice always in uninterrupted happiness in God. Pray without ceasing, which is the fruit of always rejoicing in the Lord. In everything give thanks, which is the fruit of both the former. THIS IS CHRISTIAN PERFECTION. Further than this we cannot go, and we need not stop short of it.”


I.         Jesus purchased our joy and righteousness.*


            A.        Joy and righteousness is ours through Jesus Christ.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [4] and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, [5] who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. [6] In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. [7] These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [8] 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, [9] for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1 Peter 1:3 – 9]


                        1.         Joy is based on our standing in Jesus, not circumstances. [v 6]


                                    a.         In Jesus we have a “new birth” and a “living hope.” [v 4]


                                    b.         Suffering plays an important part in “proving” our faith. [v 7]

“RO 3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. [22] This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:21]


                        2.         Righteousness is based on the work of Jesus Christ, not our work.


                                    a.         The keeping of the law implied the possibility of earning or deserving salvation.


                                    b.         Righteousness comes through one source: Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and coming again.


            B.        Joy killers:


                        1.         The desire to gratify the imagination.*


                                    a.         These are things that were never designed to satisfy the desire to gratify the immortal spirit.*

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. [17] The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” [1 John 2:15 – 17]


                                    b.         The real trouble is that all the things we crave (want) outside of Jesus is false and will eventually let us down or betray us.


                        2.         Bitterness.*

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” [Hebrews 12:15]


                                    a.         Bitterness is connected to missing the grace of God.


                                    b.         This affect can be both initially and eventually.


                        3.         “Looking for life in things that make you die.” [“Life begins at the cross” by the Alter Boys]


                                    a.         When we chase what is false, the end will always be bad.


                                    b.         We have so much to confuse us. We add so much to the exercise of religion. We become “smorgasbord” in our approach because we don’t know the Bible.


II.       Prayer is the breath of our spiritual life.*


            A.        Joy makes us want to be constantly in the presence of God.*


                        1.         “Sweet of hour of prayer” vs “pray without ceasing”


                                    a.         Someplace we get the idea that the presence of God is something we can enter and leave at will.


                                    b.         While at times we are invited into God’s presence for special times, such as church services, Bible reading, prayer... we are constantly in God’s presence!

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” [Colossians 1:27]

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, [22] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” [2 Corinthians 1:21 – 22]


            B.        Of all our physical functions... (outside of our heart beating) breathing is the most critical (we die the quickest if this it denied).


                        1.         Spiritually, it works the same way... if we disconnect from God in prayer... we will cease to live spiritually.

[Ill. There is an octopus that changes color and is about the size of a golf ball. It is considered the most lethal creature on earth. If a person comes in contact with the octopus, death results in about four minutes and there is no known antidote. The problem is not the octopus, it is a deadly bacteria that grows on its skin. It works because it causes the body to stop breathing which causes cardiac arrest. Basically, its drowning without the water.]


                        2.         When you are in love with someone, there is a joy that fills you when you are around them... Joy that is real will compel us to be in the presence of God, constantly in prayer.


                                    a.         Here’s life: in Jesus Christ we are alive in the presence of God. There is joy and a desire to continue in that joy is expressed in prayer.


                                    b.         We breath spiritually in prayer.


III.      Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer.*


            A.        Thanksgiving in all circumstances?


                        1.         Suffering produces good things.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; [4] perseverance, character; and character, hope. [5] And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [Romans 5:3 – 5]


                                    a.         This is contrary to our desire for comfort and ease.


                                    b.         Typically we see suffering as negative (even a curse).


                        2.         Suffering confirms relationship.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? [8] If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. [9] Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! [10] Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. [11] No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” [Hebrews 12:7 – 11]


                                    a.         Discipline is direction and training, not just punishment.


                                    b.         Hardship/suffering helps produce good things in us: holiness, righteousness, and peace.


            B         Notice that we are to give thanks IN all circumstances not FOR all circumstances.


                        1.         God wants us to maintain rejoicing, constant prayer, and thanksgiving regardless of the circumstances.


                                    a.         Nothing can separate us from the love of God. [see Romans 8:35 – 39]


                                    b.         If God is still around with His infinite love for us and we have not thrown away our confidence in the saving work and blood of Jesus Christ... Then regardless what circumstance we find ourselves in, we maintain joy, constant prayer, and thanksgiving.


                        2.         Pain is still pain.


                                    a.         Pain is very useful in teaching us and keeping us safe. (Ill. Hot stove...)


                                    b.         God uses the everyday grind, the natural painful parts of life, the inevitable wear and tear to teach us and point us in the way we should go.


IV.      What does this mean.


            A.        It can be a test.


                        1.         A “standard” is something that gives us an idea of what to expect and what is good.


                                    a.         Joy, constant prayer, and thanksgiving are the “standards” for the Christian life. They are the constant. They are the consistent marks. They are the expected outcomes.


                                    b.         If any of them are missing then something is wrong... in some cases very wrong.


                        2.         If something is wrong, then you need to change courses.


                                    a.         Navigating the Great Lakes was a very treacherous thing. Light houses were built to help ships navigate. Detailed maps were drawn showing the depth and dangers. Even adjustments to compasses were charted (to compensate for the heavy mineral deposits in the area). All intended to keep ships safe.


                                    b.         Still, they built the “widow’s walk” on houses. You can see them today, on top of the houses near the river... a walk way built on the roof so wives could go out and see if their husband’s ships were returning. If they didn’t see the ship, it meant it had gone down and they had probably lost their husband.


            B.        It can be necessary correction.


                        1.         Shipwrecks are terrible things... There is desperate work to stop the possible. There is frantic desire to avoid the inevitable. A shipwrecked life is a terrible thing.


                                    a.         Lives are uprooted and destroyed.


                                    b.         Families and churches are destroyed.


                        2.         It’s time to take an honest check on our bearings: joy, prayer, and thanksgiving.


                                    a.         If something is missing then you are off course. If you are off course then you are in danger.


                                    b.         Maybe you are hung up on jealousy, evil surmising (suppose without having evidence – Oxford), groundless or unreasonable suspicions, envy, resentment of past injuries or insults.


                        3.         Make the correction: repent... let God’s love and joy fill you again.

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