Friday, February 19, 2016

"Good grief, Charlie Brown!"

1 Peter 4:12-19 – “Good grief, Charlie Brown!”
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And “If the righteous is scarcely saved,  what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Ever feel like Charlie Brown??
He goes out trick-or-treating, and while all the other kids get treats, he gets ROCKS.  OR, when he attempts to kick the football, and Lucy pulls it away right before he makes contact -  AAAAUUUGGHHH!!!!!!! and he falls on his back?

Ever feel like life just isn’t fair?
2,000 years ago, Jesus asked His disciples,Who do men say that I am??”  Some said He was a prophet…others suggested he may have been Elijah.  But then Jesus pressed them and asked,but who do YOU say I am??”  Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I am intrigued by that statement...
on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  3 things seem clear to me in this passage:
  • The Church belongs to Jesus
  • It will continue until the end of time as we know it…

  • and until the Lord calls us home, we will suffer Satanic assault.
Peter wrote this letter in order to prepare those Christians for this Satanic “assault.”  He knew trouble was coming.  He knew that Christians would be attacked from all sides.  And he knew that most of us would grow weary of it.  So he wrote this letter to STEEL our faith, to prepare us for the inevitable questions that come to our minds as we experience trouble.  Questions like:
  • Where is God?  Why doesn’t He answer?
  • Is something wrong with my faith?
  • Does God care about the things I’m going through?
We didn’t sign up for this – did we?  We expected Christianity to be filled with blessing and for life to get easier – not harder.  After all, don’t the TV preachers tell us that if we have enough faith, all our problems will suddenly go away?
“I didn’t know that being a Christian would be so hard?”  “I didn’t know that following the Lord might very well cost me friendships.”

Peter knew how they would feel – he had felt it himself.  As a caring friend, he came to their side and said, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

The day you became a Christian was a wonderful day – for the first time you knew what it was to be filled with unspeakable joy!  You felt clean.  You felt the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders.  For the first time in your life, you knew what it was to be loved unconditionally.
But as great as it was to become a friend of God – your decision to follow Christ made you the enemy of hell.  Though God has purposed to bring you good - to make something beautiful and useful of your life, Satan has purposed to bring you calamity and discouragement.  He wants to destroy you AND your testimony.
Just as Christ LOVES the Church and gave Himself for it – Satan HATES it and will stop at nothing to destroy it.  He will bring difficulty, confusion, and discord; he will attack you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whatever it takes to rob your joy and create doubt in your heart towards God, he will do.  

So Peter warns that “fiery trial” IS coming.  And as we study this passage, he shows us three common sources of suffering.
I don’t know where you are today – what hardships you may be facing that threaten your joy and peace.  I know that most of you love the Lord and that you are doing your level best to serve Him.  And I know that many of you are experiencing trouble because of it.  Today, Peter will show us 3 causes of suffering:
1.  First, Sometimes we suffer because of our decision to live right.  
When we finally settle it in our minds that we will live for Christ, we will experience suffering.  In vv. 3 and 4, Peter says, For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign (talk bad about) you.
There WAS a time when we lived in sin.  There was a time when we did wrong. But when we came to Christ, all that changed – we turned from our sins and in faith asked God to save us.  At THAT moment, the old person we were - died and we became NEW CREATURES – changed – though not perfect, our minds – our desires and attitudes have changed toward sin. If you love Jesus, you want to please him.
This change is so drastic, that if we are serious about living for God, it will effect our relationships with others.  The friends we once ran with will no longer find us fun.  People we date or our spouses might not understand why we can’t do the same things we use to do.  People we THOUGHT loved us unconditionally will start avoiding us because “we have gotten religion.”
IF you are the Christian God has called you to be, your former associates will be surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and (will) malign you.
You might be thinking – “What do you mean? My Christianity has not affected my relationships with others???”  If it hasn’t, you might ought to check your “Christianity” ⇒ cause it’s broke.  

Living for Jesus requires me to turn from my old lifestyle of sin and selfishness. Living for Jesus means that all of my relationships, ALL of them, must now be rooted in holiness, truth, and love.  I cannot continue living the old way – my love for Jesus makes that impossible!
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12,all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL BE persecuted. If you haven’t experienced that – then you might need to come out of the shadows and tell people about your new relationship with Jesus.

We cannot compartmentalize our relationship with Christ so that our faith becomes PRIVATE.  No.  Christianity might be PERSONAL – BUT NEVER PRIVATE.
You belong to the Lord, Christian.  All that you are, from the words you say to the places you go, from how you spend your money to the amusements you participate in – from your friends to your family – everything is different now.  

So Peter prepares us … when people see this change in you, you will suffer for it.
2.  But, not only will you suffer difficulty when you make up your mind to live right…you will also suffer difficulty when you decide to do wrong.  Notice verse 15, But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”  

What’s he saying??  Sometimes we suffer because, in a moment of temptation, we yield to sin.  We might lose our tempers and say or do something unbecoming of a Christian.  We might allow a lustful thought to enter our minds and act on it.  We might lie to make ourselves look better or to keep ourselves out of trouble.  We might hear some bit of gossip and repeat it.
When we give in to wrong desires, we need to be prepared to face the consequences of our sin.
Remember this truth - You can choose to sin.  You have that right.  But you cannot choose the consequences.
God has established certain laws that will never change – and those laws are non-negotiable.  One of those laws is ‘the law of the harvest.’  Paul explained this law in Galatians 6, when he said,Be not deceived, God is not mocked…for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.  For he that sews to his flesh, shall OF the flesh reap corruption.”
What does that mean?  Let me break it down:
If a farmer plants corn seed, he can pray all he wants too, but he ain’t gonna get watermelons… he’s gonna get corn.  We reap like kind – if we plant cabbage, we get cabbage.  If we plant okra, we share it with the preacher, Amen?  It’s a law of God that isn’t going to change for us no matter how 'unique' we think our circumstances may be.    
So why is it that we are surprised when we plant seeds of sin and we harvest problems, pain, and punishment?  Some of us have been planting the wrong seeds and praying for crop failure – but scripture makes it plain – you will reap what you sow.
A lot of Christians are operating under the delusion that they can live however they want too, and all they have to do is say a little prayer when they go to bed at night and all is well.  They treat prayer as some sort of “magic wand” that causes all the consequences of their actions to magically DISAPPEAR.  They live with no thought to the trouble they are creating for themselves or others and then wonder why their lives are such a mess.
Stop asking ‘why?’  If you are not obeying the Lord, you are going to reap the consequences of that disobedience.
So, whenever you find yourself going through a rough patch, you need to do personal inventory: have you let some things come into your life that shouldn’t be there?  Have you compromised God’s will?  Have you neglected spiritual things?  Because these two causes of trouble are very real – you will suffer because of your decision to live RIGHT…and you will suffer because of your decision to live WRONG...
3.  And third, and probably the hardest one to understand, sometimes we suffer because God is drawing us closer to Himself.  There are many lessons in suffering. Notice verse 19, Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
The key phrase here is, suffering “according to God’s will…”
2 things are abundantly clear in scripture:
  • Nothing can happen to you WITHOUT God’s permission.
  • God, in wisdom and love, often allows things to come into our lives to make us BETTER people.
He wants what is best for us.  And sometimes He will allow us to suffer for our growth… so we will draw closer to Him.  Trust is a hard thing to develop.  Some people refuse to make themselves vulnerable by ever trusting others. But God in his sovereignty, will bring us, at various times in life, to a place of such vulnerability WHERE we MUST trust Him.  Why does God sometimes will that we endure trial?  3 reasons:
  • for Cleansing

When our lives are shaken up – when God forces us OUT of our comfort zones, we learn a lot about ourselves.  We learn that SOME things in life have become too important to us.  We learn that our STUFF and MONEY become the objects of our confidence.  So He will allow us to be sifted and shaken, to purge our lives of all the clutter that competes for our affection.  We get complacent.  We get root-bound as Christians.  And so God, in a desire to make us more fruitful, will prune away those things that are preventing growth.
It may not feel good at the time, but we have to trust that God cares more about us than we could ever care for ourselves.
  • Second, for Clarity

Sometimes we get distracted and take things for granted… but in “a moment of clarity” we will make important changes.
For instance, how many of us have suffered the death of a loved one… and suddenly we started thinking about how we never told them how much we cared… how much they meant to us?  Death often reminds us how we take those we love for granted.  So, we decide to make changes – “I’m going to tell my parents how much I love and appreciate them.”  “I’m gonna tell my friend how thankful I am for them.”  Trials provide Clarity.
And third,
  • God uses trials to elicit greater Commitment.  
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s easy to take God for granted when all is going well.  But when a tragedy threatens my peaceful world, I fall on my face and seek God’s presence.  Like a child afraid in the storm, sometimes trials thrust us into the presence of God like nothing else.  Sometimes I will make deeper commitments to the Lord when I am going through a rough patch.  I become aware of my weaknesses.  I realize that I can’t make it without Him as I go through this.  My prayer life deepens…my desire for His word becomes insatiable, I long for His presence as I go through seasons of distress.  As David said in Psalm 42:
As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.   My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…    My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is your God?    When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, and lead them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise…  Why are you cast down, O my soul? … hope in God!
So, we suffer for 3 reasons:
  • we suffer because we are doing right
  • we suffer because we do wrong
  • and we suffer because God is drawing us closer to Himself.
Are you suffering this morning?  Turn to the Lord.
He wants to make something beautiful of your life… He wants to encourage and strengthen you and help you.  He wants to supply all your needs and speak peace to your storm.  Will you trust Him this morning?  We are going to give you that chance right now.