1PETER1v3to5: PRAISE GOD
There is much to praise God for. It is very sad if we cannot find anything to praise God for! But we can be so preoccupied by our troubles that we cannot find time to praise God for all his benefits. Yet it does us good to forget our troubles for a minute or two and sing Fanny Crosby's fine hymn:
Sing O earth His wonderful love proclaim!
Well there are seven things in the passage to praise God for:
(1) Jesus, our Lord, changes our relationship with God. Jesus in his humanity was the beloved Son of God. The Father said at his baptism: "This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Mt3v17.
The wonderful truth is that if we believe in Jesus; if he really is our Lord, then we are adopted into God's family; we become his sons and joint heirs with Jesus.
Christians enjoy the ultimate status. We could have no higher status than to be joint heirs with Jesus. It is something to sing about with joy and enthusiasm.
(2) God has shown us great mercy. God as shown us mercy in the one he sent - his own, dear, Son. Jesus said of his mission to the world of men: "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." Jn12v47.
Jesus could have come to rule justly. That would have brought great benefits to men. None of the Roman Emperors was without fault. Instead Jesus came to save - at great personal cost. He was the ultimate and only perfect sacrifice - offered to God the Father to atone for mankind's sin. God in grace accepted Christ's sacrifice so that all who submit to Jesus and follow him are saved from the consequences of their sin.
When I was a boy I used to enjoy singing the chorus:
Christians enjoy huge privileges as children of God. We are able to pray with confidence and expectation the Lord's prayer: "Our Father ...... ." But we are also under an obligation to God our adoptive Father. The Lord's prayer goes on: "Hallowed be your name. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We are committed to honour God, to promote His cause and do His will. Jesus, himself, did not always find this easy and so neither will we.
John wrote in his epistle: We have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, becase we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1Jn3v23. Sadly Christians find it hard to love one another. See 1Thes5v12to24.
(4) God has given us a living hope. A good definition of hope is: an optimistic state of mind based on an expectation of a positive outcome in the future. Or to put it more succinctly: to expect with confidence.
So the farmer sows his seed in hope, in the confident expectation, of an harvest. The fisherman casts his net in the hope of a catch of fish. The student revises for his exam in the hope of passing it. The Christian believes in Jesus in confident expectation of receiving forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Paul's letter to the Romans highlights some of the blessings of hope. For example: If we wait for what we do see with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Rom8v25.
* Helps us to persevere doing what is necessary to achieve our goal or desire.
* Motivates us to give of our best in pursuit of a desired end.
* Has a beneficial effect on our mood. It keeps us confident and cheerful.
A few weeks ago I endured a serious operation on my spine without much hope of its success! My spirits were low as I attended Ipswich Hospital for surgery. My worst fears were realised!
Hope is vital on our Christian pilgrimage. It helps us to persevere to the end with eagerness, confidence and cheerfulness. Our confidence is based on the FACT of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. The great apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that without the resurrection of Jesus we are without hope. He wrote to the Corinthians: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
This is our hope, that as believers in Jesus, the day will dawn when we are raised from the dead as he was - with resurrection bodies like his. So we can sing with confidence Samuel Medley's fine hymn:
To wipe away my falling tears,
To soothe and calm my troubled heart,
All needed blessings to impart
(5) God promises an inheritance kept in heaven. In the Old Testament the great God-given, Jewish inheritance was the Promised Land. See Deut15v4 and Deut19v10. However that land had its limitations. It was:
* Perishable. Invading armies ravaged it. The enemies of the Jews conquered it.
* Defile able. The Jews themselves defiled the land with their altars, shrines and disgusting poles to false gods and thereby incurred the wrath of God.
* Finite. The glory of the Promised Land faded. Jerusalem was destroyed. The Temple is no more. The Old Covenant has given way to the New.
The Christian's inheritance is not like the Promised Land. It is kept in heaven for believers. Jesus has been working on it since his ascension. The new earth and new heavens await Christ's return to earth. The new creation will be:
* Imperishable - no enemy will penetrate its borders.
* Undefiled - no sin will disturb the bliss of the redeemed. We shall see Jesus and be like him who never sinned. All desire to sin will end.
* Unfading - its glory will never diminish. The Lamb is all the glory in Emmanuel's land.
But her dear bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze on glory,
But on my King of grace, -
Not on the crown he giveth,
But on his pierced hand.
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel's land.
(6) God shields us by his power through faith. There is no doubt that God has immense power. However this power only becomes operational and effective in so far as we exercise faith. Our lack of faith puts limits on God's power.
God stands guard over us. This is a truth wonderfully expressed by Augustus Toplady in his famous hymn: A Sovereign Protector I have.
So what difference does it actually make having God as the guardian of our souls? There are at least four ways:
* God restrains our great enemy, Satan. He sets limits on the extent to which Satan can interfere in our lives. Job's faith was sorely tested - but not beyond his power to resist. Jesus acknowledged God's willingness to be our gaurdian when he taught his disciples to pray: "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
* God will warn us of impending disaster unless we abandon current, ill advised behaviour. This is something a military adviser would do. There are lots of examples of this happening in the Bible. God spoke to Peter and Barnabas through Paul, warning them of the dangers of abstaining from participating in the Lord's Supper with Gentile Christians.
* God will help us to make decisions in both our best interest and also His. He often does this through His inspired word. Some years ago a representative of the Association of Churches to which my church belongs accused me of being the source of all our troubles as a fellowship. Well we had no troubles except the absence of new members to replace those lost to death! However I make it plain on this website that I have no time for the doctrines of unconditional election and particular redemption. These are doctrines we should subscribe to as a member of a Reformed Association. At the time I thought seriously about leaving my church. But God spoke to me through a passage in Corinthians that I had never noticed before: Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 1Cor7v17. So I remained an elder of the church at Brockley. There was a work God wanted me to do. Last year I conducted six funerals!
* God will give us help to undertake a special task. I love the story of Esther. She had a special task - to intercede with Xerxes, King of Persia, for her people, the Jews, whom wicked Haman proposed to liquidate. I love the words of Mordecai to his cousin, Esther, member of Xerxes' harem: "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther4v14.
I relied heavily on God for help in conducting the six funerals mentioned above as it was a time of declining health. God UNDOUBTEDLY helped me.
(7) God will finally reveal to his own the blessings of salvation. The blessings attending our salvation will be revealed on the Last Days when Jesus returns to earth.
After the judgment all those saved by grace and through faith in the redemptive work of Jesus will dwell on the new earth in the new universe. Jesus will dwell with us. We shall see him and be like him for ever. See 1Thes4v13to18.
Paul's assurance of eternal well being to the believers in Thessalonica is brilliantly expressed in James Montgomery's moving hymn:
Amen so let it be!
Life from the dead is in that word,
Here in he body pent,
Absent from Him I roam.
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day's march nearer home.