“Gazing Into The Gospel” 1 Peter 1:10-12 May 8, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO: On Easter, when we began our study of 1 Peter,
we saw how some people think that when you become a Christian,
you step into a magic circle.
If you have enough faith, God keeps you from going through troubles.
But that’s wrong. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you are exempt from suffering.
The truth is much more profound.
You go through the fire, you go through the deep waters—
and the Lord uses that to manifest his grace in your life.
Peter introduces that right away in his letter. The theme verses are 6 and 7:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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.”
There it is: Suffering, grief, trials—refined by fire—praise, glory and honor.
There’s an old hymn that says:
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
It’s not that God keeps all troubles away—he blesses the troubles.
It’s not that he keeps you from distress—he sanctifies your distresses so that they
don’t crush your or burn you to ashes, but make you more beautiful and holy.
But Peter seems to anticipate an objection from his readers.
He seems to anticipate Christians saying: I guess I believe that, but I don’t feel it.
I don’t feel like I’m being perfected by my troubles.
I believe I’m saved, but I still don’t feel like I’m being purified.
I’m going through troubles but not rejoicing. Not filled with inexpressible joy.
Maybe that’s where you are.
Peter says: It’s still true whether you feel it or not. God is refining you in this.
But the reason you aren’t experiencing joy inexpressible is because you aren’t
looking in the right place. You aren’t looking at Gospel.
INTRO: What is the Gospel?
Is the Gospel just the basics of becoming a Christian?
Is it something you learn once then you put it aside and move on to bigger things?
A few years ago I was talking to someone at Christ Covenant who was teaching a
children’s Sunday school class—maybe 3rd or 4th grade.
He said: It’s so hard to teach these kids. Christ Covenant kids a tough audience.
I asked him what he meant. Do you mean you have behavior problems?
He said: No, it’s not that at all.
I’ll read my lesson and think—That’s interesting, I’ve never heard that story before.
On Sunday I’ll say: OK, we’re going to read the story of Jesus healing the
paralyzed man. They’ll all say: We already know that story!
And they will tell me the story.
They know the Bible stories better than I do. They know all the answers!
Is that how it is with the Gospel?
I know Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I know that story already.
Now, what’s next. Let’s move on to the deeper things.
Peter says: The Gospel is the deeper thing. It is the next thing.
You never get past the Gospel. You never check it off your list.
You never put it behind and move on to the next thing.
The way Peter expresses this is amazing.
He talks about the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles
proclaiming the Gospel, the Good New of Jesus Christ and then he says, vs. 12:
“Even angels long to look into these things.”
Peter says that angels gaze with wonder at the Gospel.
It’s the very same verb that is used to speak of the disciples gazing
into the empty tomb on Easter morning. Gazing with wonder.
Angels long to look into the depths of the Gospel.
Think about that for a moment. Angels are smart people.
Smarter and more disciplined than us. They have lived longer. Untainted by sin.
If the Gospel was just the simple basics, angels would have long moved past it.
It’s just the simple formula for humans to get saved.
We’re meditating on the deeper things.
But for the angels of heaven, the deepest thing, the thing they gaze at with wonder,
and discuss, and long to look into and understand more deeply is the Gospel.
Peter’s point to us is this: You better long to look into the Gospel too.
You better spend your life gazing into it.
If you don’t, you won’t be able to handle your troubles.
It’s only through the Gospel, that you will know that in your deepest distresses you
are being sanctified. And only in that knowledge will you have joy inexpressible.
Peter says to these believers: Remember, Jesus Christ’s sufferings led to glory.
In the same way, your sufferings, your sorrows, your deepest distresses
can become ways in which you become someone great.
Not crushed, not shattered, but great.
Sufferings can be like a furnace that turns you into pure gold.
Your heart, your character is refined and made more beautiful and holy.
So how do you gaze into the Gospel, what does that even mean?
How can you take the simple message that Jesus died on the cross for your sins
and turn that into something that you gaze into all your life so that your sufferings
are filled with joy?
Peter shows us how. He gives this grand vision of our salvation
in which each member of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—has a part.
Because your salvation is all of God, you can have joy in your suffering.
So let’s follow Peter’s lead and look at this marvelous Trinitarian
view of the good news of our salvation. Three points, of course.
1. The sovereign grace of God,
2. The perfect work of Christ,
3. and The heavenly gift of the Spirit in our salvation
MP#1 The sovereign grace of God
Vs 10 “Concerning this salvation, the prophets spoke of the grace that was to come to you.”
This is where the Gospel starts. The good news is that grace comes to you.
Where does that grace come from? It comes from God.
The good news is never what you have done or what you have to do—
The good news is that everything starts with God. The initiative is with God.
That’s grace. Sovereign grace, kingly grace that he bestows as he desires.
How does Peter start this letter about Christian suffering?
He starts with a celebration of God’s sovereign grace.
I told you two weeks ago that we would come back to this.
Back to the p-word. Predestination. Such a big theme in Peter’s letter
Look at verse 1: “To God’s elect,
verse 2 “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
What does this word “foreknowledge” mean?
Some Christians say it means that God looked down the corridors of time,
and he saw that you would love him.
So he chose you because he could see that you were going to love him.
But that’s not what foreknowledge means.
God doesn’t just have a bare knowledge of things that are going to happen.
He knows because it is his plan.
Foreknowledge means that in eternity God knew he was going to create the world,
He knew that one day you would be born.
He knew that you would sin.
He knew that you would need a Savior.
He knew that he was going to send Jesus to atone for your sin.
If he planned that salvation for you, means he loved you before time began.
That’s what foreknowledge means. God loved you in advance.
He chose you before you chose to love and embrace Jesus as your Savior.
That’s amazing. You can gaze and gaze at that and never get to the bottom.
It’s even more amazing when you read later in this chapter, in verse 20,
where is says that Jesus himself was foreknown by God,
that he was chosen before the creation of the world to be our Savior..
God knew we would rebel and so he chose Jesus to save us.
God is not responsible for our sin, he didn’t make us sin.
But he made us knowing that we would and knowing that he had a plan to save us.
Not only does God foreknow us, he elects us. I love that word!
Christians debate this too.
Some say election means that God chose those who he knew would choose him.
The big problem with that is that the Bible says—
no one seeks God, no one looks for God, no one chooses God!
God didn’t choose people who were going to choose him—
he chose people who would never choose him.
He chose people who are running from him, shaking their fists at him.
People who are saying: God, leave me alone. I want to be my own god.
And throughout Scripture is this glorious constellation of words—
foreknown, elect, chosen, predestined—and the good news is that . . .
I didn’t love God first, he loved me first.
I didn’t choose God first, he chose me first.
I didn’t pursue God first, he pursued me.
God’s not lost—we are!
And he’s the one on a rescue mission to save his enemies
which is what we are because of our sin.
Election tells me that God loved me before time began.
He sent Jesus to save me. And at just the right time, he drew me in faith.
I am not good. But I am loved.
I am not deserving. But I am loved.
I have done nothing to merit God’s favor—
but he gives it to me in spite of who I am and because of who he is.
That’s election: You’ve been picked by God.
Does this change the way your look at your suffering. You bet it does.
Some of you have never been picked for anything!
You weren’t picked for class president or homecoming queen.
You weren’t even picked for kickball at recess.
But the Bible says God foreknew, chose, elected, predestined you—
he took the initiative. His grace came to you.
And if that is true then you can be assured that no suffering, no trial, no troubles
in your life are a surprise to God. More than that, he planned them.
They are part of a great destiny that he has for you that cannot be thwarted.
I know that people react against the word predestination.
But it’s a marvelous word. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons.
Paul says in Ephesians 1. Think about what that means.
To be predestined means that you have a destiny.
You have a great destiny because the Lord has planned your destiny.
As the song says:
No power of hell, no scheme of man can every pluck me from his hand.
Yes, there are mysteries and even perplexing, troubling questions
when you start to think about the implications.
But this is not a doctrine to be debated and fought over
but to be loved and celebrated by the children of God.
This is amazing. Angels long to look into this.
But our salvation doesn’t stop in the eternal counsels of heaven—
it came to earth in Jesus Christ.
MP#2 The perfect work of Christ
Let’s read verses 10 and 11 again:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. ”
Peter says that the Old Testament prophets knew about Christ’s coming.
They knew someone was coming to save us.
They didn’t know everything, but they knew enough to know that Christ would
come when the time and circumstances were right.
And they knew that when he came he would accomplish salvation for his people
and that would require first that he suffered and then that he was glorified.
In the next verse, verse 12, Peter says that these things Christ has done have
been told you by the apostles. King James Version says: Reported to you.
What do reporters do?
They don’t give wise sayings. Don’t give moral lessons for life.
They don’t say: Here’s the news, A penny saved is a penny earned!
They tell what has happened—who won the game, where the storm hit.
Now, here’s the point. The Gospel is the report of a historic event.
It’s a report of the perfect work of Jesus Christ in real time and history.
The Gospel is not wise sayings. It’s not a way of life or morality.
It’s not lessons about what you have to do to get God’s blessing.
It leads to ethics and wisdom and living right.
But it’s not those things. The good news is that something happened.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah came in real time, in real history and he did something.
He accomplished something. He suffered and was glorified.
And the Bible, Old and New Testament, is all about Jesus.
Jesus is the hero of every story.
I read earlier some verses from the story of David and Goliath because wanted to
make this point. How easy it is to read that story and turn it into a moral lesson.
David was a little boy who bravely faced the giant. You have giants in your life.
You have to be brave like David. Be brave. That’s the lesson.
No—that’s not the lesson. Peter says that the prophets spoke of Christ.
Jesus is the hero of the David and Goliath story.
David is a type of Christ.
His victory over Goliath a foreshadowing of Christ’s victory over all our enemies.
We aren’t David. We’re the Israelites hiding in our tents, trembling with fear.
Jesus is strong. Jesus went to the cross, he died fighting the giants of sin
and death and hell. Now, because of what he has done, you can be brave in him.
And even when you aren’t, even when you are a coward like Peter was,
and deny Christ and run away when a little girl challenges you—Jesus still hero.
Do you see how different that is? It’s not a be good moral lesson.
When you get a hold of this, it makes the Bible come alive.
God is the hero of every story—not you.
The Bible is not about what you have to do, it’s about what Christ has done.
What the OT prophesied he would do for our salvation,
and the NT record and proclamation of all he accomplished.
Don’t tell your children to be good because the Bible says so.
Tell them to trust Jesus who was good for them, and obeyed God perfectly,
and who forgives them when they do bad.
And then tell them to be good because he loves them.
Now, how does this relate to suffering? It’s huge.
The sting of suffering, the thing that robs your joy, is when you focus on yourself—
your failures, your weakness, the things you have to do.
You go through some trial related to one of your children—
This child of yours has gotten into something bad, some self-destructive behavior,
She’s drifting. He’s wandered from the faith.
And you think—what a failure I’ve been as a parent. And maybe you have.
Maybe you need to get down on your knees and ask God for forgiveness.
Or something else bad happens to you and you think—
I haven’t been living as I should as a Christian. I’ve let God down.
I’ve got to do better. And you probably do need to do better.
But that will crush you. Troubles will be a furnace that burn you to ashes.
You’ll never be perfect. Even if you could be, can’t erase the past.
How do you know God will answer your prayers?
How do you deal with criticism?
How do you think about yourself?
How do you handle suffering?
Is your answer always: I’ve got to do something?!
The Gospel is not what you have done or are doing or ought to be doing—
but what Jesus Christ has done. He lived the perfect life. He died. He rose.
He’s the hero of every story in the Bible and he’s the hero of your stories.
And in every trial, every trouble you can look first at your performance,
or you can look at Jesus performance and be comforted by the Gospel.
Now this doesn’t change the rules one bit.
Of course you have to obey and do your best in every area of life.
Of course you reap what you sow—both good and bad.
But it changes everything. And you can gaze and gaze at this all your life.
The perfect work of Jesus for you.
Jesus lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died.
He’s perfect, I’m not. But if I believe in him, I get his record in God’s eyes.
He took the ultimate punishment for my failures.
That enables you do face troubles in a totally different way.
That brings us to the last facet of our salvation that Peter focus on
MP#3 The heavenly gift of the Spirit
Verse 12 again: It was revealed to them (Who? The Prophets, OT writers)
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when the spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”
Peter is saying that even though we hear the Gospel from other people—
we hear it from those who preach it to us, that good news actually comes
to us by the Holy Spirit, who has been sent from heaven for that purpose.
Imagine, for example, Billy Graham in his prime.
He’s preaching to a huge stadium, or maybe preaching at Madison Square Garden.
Every person there hears what he has to say.
Everyone hears him preach Gospel, everyone hears his appeal to come to Christ.
But for those who are God’s elect, for those who have been chosen according to
the foreknowledge of God, there is another preacher—the Holy Spirit.
The good news comes to those people, not just from Billy Graham,
but by the Holy Spirit. And as it goes in, it changes them.
The Bible makes an important distinction.
Some people only hear the Gospel as the preaching of a man—
and it goes in one ear and out the other.
But some people hear the Gospel and it comes by the Holy Spirit.
Theologians call this work of the Holy Spirit effectual calling.
Our catechism has a good definition: What is effectual calling?
“Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel.”
Everyone in the stadium hears the general Gospel call.
But the Holy Spirit effectually calls his people.
He convicts them of sin. Enlightens their minds so they can see Christ.
Renews their wills. Do people have free will? Of course!
You choose to do what you want to do.
But what do you want to do? Live your own life and tell God to stay out.
Wills are free but at same time bound by sin. Holy Spirit renews.
Then gently, he persuades and enables to embrace Jesus offered in Gospel.
What does this have to do with suffering?
All those thing that the Holy Spirit does to call you to Christ,
he continues to do in you throughout your life.
He continues to convict of sin.
He continues to enlighten your mind so seen your need for Christ.
He continues to renew your will so you choose what’s good
He continues to persuade you and enable to embrace God’s salvation.
But it goes by a different name after you become a Christian—sanctification.
And you have to be able to see that if you are going to have joy in suffering.
You have to gaze at the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work and take heart in it.
Even if you are in such a funk that all you can see is the ugly things
in your heart—that’s his work. You wouldn’t see those things were it not for him.
Keep looking and you’ll see him work.
Two weeks ago I read you a story from Darlene Rose’s book Evidence Not Seen.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Better every time you read it.
Story I read to you was about the time she lost her last possession.
Her wedding book, which was burned in a bombing.
She tells of her very last day in Indonesia. The Allies had won the war.
She was on a dock, waiting to be taken to a navy plane, return to America.
And all her suffering and the memory of it just welled up and began to crush her.
She started in her mind a litany all she had suffered.
Thought first of losing her husband, his lonely grave in the jungle. And her friends.
“Now alone, I started the journey back to my homeland. How desolate the island shoreline seemed, despite the lush foliage and sparkling blue waters. I turned my face away as great bitterness corroded the edges of my soul like acid. Twenty-eight years old, already a widow for more than two years, I was returning to the United States without a single possession. My mementos and private keepsakes of married life had been pilfered or destroyed. I wore borrowed, ill-fitting clothes. A huge ulcer was eating into the flesh of one leg, and my once soft and fair skin was scarred and mottled from the hours I had spent working in the beastly tropical sun to advance the Japanese war effort. The diseases of imprisonment—beriberi, malaria, and dysentery—had left me frail and debilitated.”
Then she began to remember the horrible things she had seen done to people
that had scarred her and still gave her nightmares. Awash in a sea of bitterness.
But the Holy Spirit was at work, even when she seemed to be burned to ashes.
Some Indonesian Christians began to sing: God be with you till we meet again.
That song broke her bitterness loose and she says:
“As the plane became airborne, carrying me away from the bomb-scarred terrain and the mountains of my long bondage, I handed over eight long years of my life into the faithful, wise hands of a gracious God who alone could help me understand the mysteries of deep pain and suffering.”
Who was at work in her life, even when she was overwhelmed with bitterness?
The Holy Spirit. He helped her see that her bitterness was corrosive to soul.
He enabled her to call out to God. He softened her heart to hear that hymn.
He persuaded and enabled her to take her years of suffering and entrust to Christ.
Let me encourage you with this—In the depths of your deepest distress—
when you sense these movements in your own soul—
a consciousness of sin, a desire to cry out to God, even in anger or bitterness,
and a tugging to trust him—It’s the Holy Spirit. Take heart.
And I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
Have I given you enough to think about?
Maybe too much for one sermon?
Foreknowledge, election, predestination . . .
Effectual calling, sanctification . . .
And Jesus Christ the hero of every story in the Bible. . .
You’ll never get to the bottom of those things.
Angels long to look into them.
You must gaze at these great things too. Look deep into God’s Word.
Think of your salvation in terms of
the plan of the Father and the work of the Son and the perfecting of the Spirit.
And as you do, in the midst of your suffering,
you will know that joy inexpressible.