Truth Matters!

Chapter 2 is a big chunk of text, so we split it up over two sermons. Thematically, we are continuing right where Todd left off last week. In case this is your first message in the series, we’ll start with some context of 2 Peter, and a short recap of the message last week before jumping in to our text. This is a letter written to all Christians by the apostle Peter. This is not a situational letter written to specific people in a specific situation. The scriptures here speak to a spiritual truth that was evident in the first century and continues to be true today.

Throughout the ages, God has placed leaders and overseers to shepherd and guide his people. We are familiar with leaders like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, and David; God used these men to show the Israelites how to follow Him. You might also be familiar with Samson, King Saul and King Ahab. They are noteworthy for the exact opposite reason; they opposed God and followed what they saw as their best interest. In so doing, they brought about enormous trouble for the nation of Israel, and ultimately themselves.

Things hadn’t gotten any better by the first century. From the gospel of John: Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? ~ John 3:10-12

The pharisees were leading the nation poorly by not upholding God’s commands. And to make it worse they did it with confidence and pretension. Some wrong is easier to spot than others. Some false teachers will state from the outset their oppositions to the teachings of Jesus. However, there are some that will try to convince you they are following Jesus, more closely than you by the way. They will firmly state that it is YOU that has it wrong, and that in order to better understand what God actually meant, you need to listen to them, to their understanding.

Sounds pretty familiar if you know the story of the serpent in the garden. “Did God actually say…”?

Todd said last week, the common thread among false teaching is that is chips away at the deity of Christ.

In studying today’s text, I hope we come away with two distinct potential paths in our spiritual life

To seek God means to orient one’s life toward him in active faith and obedience, to be diligent in fulfilling His commands, to oppose idolatry, and to support and participate in his worship.

The converse is to forsake God, which includes apostasy and idolatry, the neglect and abuse of his church and his institutions, despising the words of his prophets.

Leaders are held to a high standard. This is repeated many times in scripture. Part of the calling of a teacher is to speak something more important and impactful than their own words and interpretations, but to speak the word of the Lord. I don’t mean a new word, a new revelation. But to speak boldly and confidently that THIS is the truth, THIS is what God has for us. This morning we will explore what it looks like to forsake him, the warnings Peter gives us about people who do, and how we might instead seek him and lead others well.

2 Peter 2:12-22

12 But these [false teachers], like irrational animals,creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13a suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.

  • Leaders have a responsibility to teach faithfully. When that obligation is neglected, the result is not neutral.
  • The things they do will brought upon themselves. They will be destroyed like their false teaching destroys faith. They will reap the wrongdoing they brought upon their flock.
  • Peter compares false teachers to animals that God gave us dominion over. Implies maybe they don’t have a personal relationship with God.
  • An example of the kind of irrationality Peter was witness to: John 12:10-11 “So the chief priests made plans to put Lazurus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus”
  • Absolutely shocking that they refused to change their minds in the face of objective facts. Instead, they seek to destroy the evidence of the deity of Jesus.
  • Sin produces this irrational behavior

13b They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.

  • The warning here is towards people who will claim to be disciples of Jesus, who are in amongst the church, even in leadership positions.
  • Peter is specifically talking about teachers who “bring in destructive heresies”
  • Normally when I sin, I do so in secret. If I craft a lie, I try to keep the audience as small as possible. This limits the number of people who can keep me honest.
  • This kind of sin isn’t done in secret; it is out in the open. Peter comments on the reality we still see today.
  • There are people who bring about a “new gospel” or false doctrine, and they do so loudly and proudly. They share their own interpretations
  • V. 13 “Feast with you”, likely a reference to the Lord’s supper. They think they share our faith, and posture as Christians to the point of partaking the sacraments.”
  • V. 14 14 “they have hearts trained in greed”. No biblical prophecy came about because a man wanted to prophesy, similarly said in 2 Pet. 1:21 False prophets have motives deeply rooted in greed and selfish ambition.

Two weeks ago: 2 Pet. 1:20-21 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

  • Accursed children here are the kings and leaders of Israel whose spiritual descendants will now plague his Church.
  • Numbers 22: Balaam is a prophet known from Old and New Testament fame for disobeying God and dishonest gain, and was ultimately corrected by his own donkey.
  • He used his status as a prophet, a man of God, to benefit himself.
  • Even a prophet was corrected by a lowly creature like a donkey
  • There is accountability even with a man of God.
  • The nation of Israel has a long history of leaders taking them in the wrong direction, and mankind is still born in sin. Why do we expect it to change?
  • What does this all mean? What does it actually look like? Remember the words of the serpent “did God actually say?”
  • There are false teachers who will look you in the eye and say that the bible doesn’t mean what it says.
  • They might tell you a specific earthly desire you have is not a sin.
  • They know the truth because of their superior intelligence.
  • They might convince you it’s because they received a word from God.
  • God does not contradict himself.
  • Every time Todd or Greg or myself stands up here to teach, the word of God is at the center. We don’t come up with an agenda of what we want to talk about. We examine the word of God and let it take us where it goes.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

  • Sensual passions of the flesh are attractive! But a waterless spring promises refreshment and delivers none
  • It’s incredibly difficult to remove the passion for the world, even when we know it doesn’t satiate us. Instead, it needs to be replaced.
  • Instead, we should pay close attention to the constant reminders of the things of God, and not false teachings that please our earthly desires.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

  • There is a reason false teachers continue be effective. Sometimes we want the heresy.
  • The truth can be uncomfortable, such as the idea that we are unable to save ourselves. That there are dreams and desires God wants us to give up on. That our earthly accomplishments don’t mean anything.
  • That our nice, but non-believing family members are eternally doomed.
  • Todd said a couple weeks ago that Jesus didn’t die so we could continue living exactly how we want to live.
  • So, when someone teaches that we can have it all, the financial security, the career goals and the white picket fence, it feels good.
  • But God has so much more for us, he wants to take us on a vacation to the beach.

20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

  • We are promised freedom, but our sin enslaves and entangles.
  • We can understand this to be about the Christians who are drawn astray as well as the teachers themselves.
  • Isn’t a little bit of Jesus better than none?
  • The knowledge of God gives more accountability before him. Their experiences in the Christian life, their exposure to the text and to biblically sound teaching and relationships with other Christians raise the bar of what is expected.
  • This is important because as individual followers of Jesus, we are accountable to what has been revealed to us. We have no excuses; we need to seek and treasure the truth!
  • And here we arrive at our earlier point, the choice we are given is to seek or to forsake. There is no such thing as a middle ground. We cannot learn just enough, and then stop or turn away. We need to continue to orient our lives towards him, and to support and participate in his worship.

If we fall in love with God’s word, we recognize that it is a powerful and bright shining light leading us in the truth. Our worldly desires get dimmer not by abstaining from them, but by replacing them with a desire for God. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” ~ James 4:8 It sounds easy, but do you believe scripture or not? Look for him, talk with him. Make time for him.

False teachers are not just a thing of the past. Just because someone is in leadership does not write them a blank check to say whatever and lead however they want to. Do your homework, grow your personal relationship with him so you can identify heresy when you see it. Conversely, this does not give us believers a blank check to refuse to submit to the leaders God has placed us under. There is a balance, but we are unable to pick out the counterfeit unless we diligently study the real thing.

Lastly, everyone has a unique calling before the lord. I ask that you would prayerfully consider what your purpose is. Maybe it is to be the spiritual leader of your family. Maybe you have been called to lead people to Christ in your workplace or apartment complex.

There is no middle ground. We either seek God or we forsake him. Jesus died for his church, and only a false teacher would tell us we can neglect it.

APPLICATION:

While I am challenging the congregation with this, I am equally challenged by these questions.

Are you all in for Jesus, are you actively seeking him?

Your understanding of who God is should inform every part of your life.

Be on your guard; the enemy wants nothing more to distract you with a false understanding of who God is. Without a firm foundation we are susceptible to false teaching.

Does your life reflect a true image of Jesus? Make sure you are teaching others properly; the consequences are severe. Ask God to show you the truth, even if it is hard to hear.

Understanding God’s Mercy & Judgement

What is the truth about God? What becomes of those who misrepresent Him? What is Justice? How come at times it seems like the guilty go unpunished? What is the standard we use to decide what is just or unjust? Our emotions? Can we protect our hearts and minds from being corrupted by non-Biblical ideas?

God’s people have wrestled with such questions forever. God wants us to know that HE is engaged and wants to leads us. He has given us the guidance we need, today we have some of that guidance He wants us to grow in our understanding of HIS justice…the only justice that matters.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NLT)

20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

  • THIS view of Scripture is crucial to what Peter is going to warn us about
  • THIS view of scripture gives us the standard we need

2:1-11 (NASB 1995)

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

  • In contrast to those who speak for God, there are always imposters (satan)
  • Don’t think that was something that just happened back in the day…BEWARE!
  • The introduction of heresy is not done openly, it is done through subterfuge
  • In subtle and seemingly small ways they will deny who Jesus Christ truly is
  • While living in the community of those Christ bought with His blood they do this
  • Their demise comes from committing the ‘Unforgivable Sin’ Matt. 12:31
  • Denying Jesus Christ is God is the same as blaspheming The Holy Spirit
  • Denying the reality of who God is = A destiny of destruction

2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

  • Pursuing the gratification of your flesh is very attractive and everyone is into it
  • It is very popular to reimagine God in some new hip way (jesus is my homeboy)
  • All the ‘Hipsters’ call those who stick to the Biblical truth about God as ‘Haters’
  • They label the Biblical following of Jesus as laking compassion or empathy
  • They are greedy for attention and riches and will do whatever gets them both
  • God is LOVE… But HIS love is equaled by HIS holiness (if not equal, not God)
  • Spiritual / Religious exploitation has occurred since the beginning of civilization
  • it may look like they are getting away with it but God’s Justice WILL be enacted

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

  • We are about to be treated to a history lesson in God’s judgement & mercy
  • Peter is being prophetic speaking of what is to be the coming fate of demons
  • ‘Demons’ as they are known are fallen angels who share a future with Lucifer
  • HE didn’t judge all the Angels, HE preserved the righteous ones
  • In the flood He judged all creation except what HE determined righteous
  • Only God has perfect information… only HE can execute perfect justice
  • This passage shows us why Christ’s followers need to know Scripture

6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

  • The destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah was an enactment of God’s Justice
  • It was an example…even today Sodom & Gomorrah = Sensual, fleshly Evil
  • But it was not beyond God to rescue those who did not deserve that judgement
  • God knew Lot’s heart…just like He knows yours

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,

  • God rescues and punishes as He sees fit
  • Old & New Testaments show how God destroys those who misrepresent Him
  • And how HE saves / rescues those HE deems righteous
  • His character is displayed in how HE enacts HIS judgement
  • From these examples & others in Scripture we can understand God’s justice

10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

  • Beware of those who live for their pleasure think they are above authority
  • They do what they want, when they want… they don’t fear God’s power
  • They speak against the spiritual powers that represent God here on earth
  • And angels prove themselves superior by not condemning them (not their job)

Summary:

Beware those who twist God’s Word’s to circumvent HIS authority..

Heretics work through deception and deny the deity of Jesus Christ

Those who are against God are condemned to eternal destruction.

Many get fooled, God’s reputation suffers, but HE will have HIS justice.

Scripture teaches how God destroys & saves based on HIS will.

Application Questions:

Do you know God’s Word well enough to recognize non-Biblical ideas about God?

Are you fully convinced Jesus is God and live based on that?

Do you realize God knows exactly what you believe & will deal with you accordingly?

Do you fully trust God to enact righteous judgement is for all matters, for all time?

Christ’s Disciples Pay Close Attention To God’s Word

Cultures are defined by what they value. The value of various things shape culture. What we ascribe value to here at MIDTOWN Church guides the way we live. More than anything else we value Christ Jesus, His Body & His Word.

In the opening of this letter, Peter stresses how important it is for every follower of Christ to value the gift of eternity by actively and constantly growing spiritually. And in today’s passage he is going to tell us how valuable our instruction manual for that growth is. In order to grow in Christ we need an objective source of guidance & context. We need Scripture. Left to our own devices we will value what makes us feel good and comfortable. God’s perspective is different, often opposite of ours. But we have to trust Scripture in order to make it the standard for our lives

Always consider Scripture to be the voice of your Creator, and honor the gift of His communication.

Peter is going to make a case for why we should have confidence that Scripture is truly ‘God’s Words’. He is going to remind us that He has seen Christ’s Glory and it aligns with what the prophets of Scripture foretold…and that we should pay close attention to God’s Word

2nd Peter 1:12-21(NLT)

12 Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.

  • Since entrance into the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is at stake…
  • ‘I’ is both Peter & The Holy Spirit
  • It is not enough to know God’s will & ways and be practicing them…
  • WE NEED REMINDERS…constant, specific reminders…
  • What are the ‘These Things’ being referenced?

‘These Things’ / 2nd Peter 1:1-11

Having received ‘Biblical / Apostolic / Christ-Given Faith’, we ask for grace & peace to grow in Christ.

By calling us & indwelling us with HIS Spirit, we receive everything we need to live for Christ.

Christ has promised to share eternity and His divine empowerment over sin with His Body so that we may respond by constantly growing as HIS disciples.

As Christ’s Body we are to grow in an intentional ‘Scripture Guided’ way. Any other way is devoid of Christ’s vision for us. We are to devote ourselves to such a lifestyle.

Where might we find details and deeper insights into ‘These Things’???

13 And it is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live. 14 For our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me that I must soon leave this earthly life, 15 so I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone.

  • God is saying we need reminders… (When God repeats Himself pay attention)
  • He is going to leave a legacy to Christ’s Church of valuing scripture
  • He is saying he is going to do exactly what God wants to help them & US

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw His majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when He received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to Him, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.”

  • The story he is referencing is found in Matt. 17 / Mark 9 / Luke 9
  • This is the only time on earth He was seen in His total Glory
  • He was not just a good Rabbi, or a great Teacher…He IS God!

18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets.

  • The ‘Apostolic Wittiness’
  • The writings that have been shown to be ‘God’s Word’ are tied to such witness
  • That experience only made sense when viewed through the lens of the O.T.
  • The prophetic writings and who Jesus is match up

You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

  • What is your idea of close attention?
  • Does God’s Word get your ‘close attention’?
  • The words of Scripture provide ‘Illumination’
  • This is everything we need to understand what is important until Christ returns

20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

  • Above all that has been mentioned so far and all that will be addressed
  • What makes Scripture ‘Holy Writ’ is that God’s Spirit is the Author (not people)
  • Those prophets and the Apostles wrote exactly what God moved them to write

How Christ’s Body Values Scripture

We value it by ‘paying close attention’. This means constant study and application!

We value it by considering it ‘Essential’ to our lives. Like food, water & air.

We value it by viewing it ‘Holistically’. Using all of Scripture to understand each part.

We value it by considering it ‘God’s Revelation’. It is not of human origin.

We value it by letting it be our Vision & Guidance. Practically applying it.

We value it by recognizing how Christ’s work in our lives aligns with His Word.

APPLICATION SUGGESTIONS

Stay humble & teachable regarding Scripture. Don’t think you have it all figured out.

Filter your experience of Christ through the grid of Scripture. Scripture is the standard, not your experience and emotions.

Recognize the importance of ALL Scripture and focus where your knowledge is weak.

HOW CHRIST’S BODY GROWS

This letter is a Universal or ‘catholic’ epistle / letter meant to be passed around the churches from city to city. Written near the end of his life, most likely from Rome, Peter alone had the gravitas to send a message to all the churches from there to Jerusalem. Today’s passage: Peter greets and gets right down to biz: Discipleship 101. Peter had great authority because he had lived enmeshed in a a culture of Biblical discipleship…he and others wrote the book, literally! This passage expresses some deep, and intimate insights into the ‘Development Program’ Christ Jesus has for HIS Body.

Chapter 1:1-11 (NLT)

1 This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

  • He uses both names
  • This is not and evangelistic letter…
  • His audience is defined by shared values, belief and action (Peter = action)
  • Peter defines who Jesus followers are: Same faith / belief as the Apostles
  • This is something that is God given, based on God’s reasons
  • These declarations of God’s sovereignty throughout Scripture

2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

  • The 1st thing Peter wants for other Christians: God given spiritual growth!
  • He asks that God might supply grace & peace as we learn how to follow Christ
  • Before we DO anything we must grow in Knowledge (so we do the right things)

3 By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.

  • Provision that is perfect, good and powerful
  • We have everything we need; there is to be no scarcity for the ‘Body of Christ’
  • It all happens the instant God’s Spirit indwells the surrendered follower of Christ
  • Knowing the ‘One’ who calls… but here again we see that HE makes it happen

4 And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.

  • From who HE IS flows what HE DOES…
  • He gives us hope we can bet the farm on…promises HE WILL keep!
  • He promises to be One with us, to share in who He is: Eternal
  • Once you have seen this clearly it is up to you to respond as HE desires
  • Christ defines who God is and HE defines who we are as his chosen disciples

Here is of how Christ wants us to respond to the gift of salvation

Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and (supplement your) moral excellence with (a generous provision of) knowledge, 6 and (supplement your) knowledge with (a generous provision of) self-control,

  • ‘Supplementing’
  • ‘Generous provision’
  • It can only start with faith…
  • Add to and give your faith what it needs through moral excellence (obedience)
  • Then add to your faith and obedience with knowledge
  • but with that knowledge you are going to need self control

Different growth areas are interdependent…

To grow in one area you need to practice other areas

and (supplement your) self-control with (a generous provision of) patient endurance, and (supplement your) patient endurance with (a generous provision of) godliness,

  • While practicing self control you then ‘provision that with some ‘long-suffering’
  • Your Patience is going to need a generous provision of sacrificial living
  • Godliness is being like God: Merciful, graceful, forgiving, righteous, just…

7 and (supplement your) godliness with (a generous provision of) brotherly affection, and (supplement your) brotherly affection with (a generous provision of) love for everyone.

  • What your godliness will need to not become legalistic is a lot of ‘Philadelphia’
  • Brotherly Love…Love that is charitable, between those of the same family
  • Then from there you supplement that kind of love with provision of ‘Agape’
  • This is the love that is deep and sacrificial
  • The kind of unconditional love God has for us in Christ, what we are to imitate
  • This is the real measure of growth… it is the end of our progression… or is it?
  • What should you supplement your ‘Agape Love’ for everyone with?
  • ‘Supplement your love for everyone with a generous portion of’…FAITH !!

8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

  • ‘Grow Like This’: Respond To God’s Promises
  • ‘Grow Like This’: Progressively, Constantly, Intentionally…WHY???
  • To become more productive for the ‘Kingdom of God’
  • ‘Grow Like This’… growing in all of these areas together
  • If you neglect growing in the things of Christ it proves you to be without vision

10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  • Because you share the same God-given faith with Christ’s Disciples / Apostles
  • Because Peter & Leaders are asking Christ to grow you spiritually
  • Because Christ provides EVERYTHING you need
  • Because Christ has promised to share eternity with you
  • Because Christ has given you a plan!
  • RESPOND by getting after it!
  • GROW! Like it’s your job…CUZ IT IS!
  • DOING THESE THINGS Build a lifestyle that can’t be disrupted
  • DOING THESE THINGS Demonstrates you’re among those Christ called

By the time Peter wrote this letter he was a great leader amongst Christ’s followers. He had been productive for the kingdom…which is the goal of all Christ’s followers!

When Jesus called Peter he was a good leader. He became a great leader because he learned that to be a great leader, you must first become a great follower! Peter figured out over time that to be a great follower you need four things:

You need to be sure who Christ is

You need to be sure who you are

You need to trust God to grow you

You need to respond to what God is doing w/ Bible based action / Christ Discipleship. The message of this passage is foundational to those building a culture of Biblical Christ Discipleship = MIDTOWN CHURCH

APPLICATION SUGGESTIONS:

Completely embrace that God alone decides who gets faith in Christ for His reasons.

Grow in dependence on God’s grace & peace as you learn to be Christ’s follower.

Learn how to live like God will supply everything you need to be Christ’s follower.

Become 100% sure God has promised YOU will fully share in who HE IS, forever.

Develop an intentional, progressive discipleship plan and work your plan.

How you can grow to Spiritual Maturity!

Resolutions: Do you make them? Do you keep them? The idea is to grow in some way. Everyone wants to grow in some way. Two key things you need to grow as a follower of Christ: Motivation and Direction I have both for you today. 1st The Motivation: Wherever you are I hope this declaration from Job would inspire you:

Job 19:25

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. ESV
Yet as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last, He will take His stand on the earth.
NASB
But I know that my Redeemer lives, that in the end He will rise on the dust;
CJB
For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand up at the Last, upon dust, the earth.
OJB

For the direction, I offer you this passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In this letter Paul; describes a life worthy of the Gospel, how we are to imitate Christ, how we are understand what He did and who He is, and that we are to put our faith in Him rather than our abilities. Then he shares his personal convictions about what he does to grow.

Philippians 3:8-17 (NLT)

8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him.

  • We know Paul actually lived based on the belief that knowing Christ was job 1
  • You cannot make Christ priority unless you get rid of other things
  • If you continue to value the things of this world you can’t become one with God

9 I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.

  • He used to think his obeying the mosaic law made him good with God
  • No longer! Instead it is faith that creates the bond…
  • Faith makes us right & one with God

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

  • In addition to knowing Christ (redundancy) Paul wants to experience His power
  • Paul knows the only way to know Christ is to know suffering
  • Paul knows the only way to be experience HIS power is to lay down his life

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

  • Because His readers know how he lives He wants to clarify his humble attitude
  • No matter what he accomplishes he see how much he still needs to grow
  • He has a vision for who God wants him to ultimately be (fully owned by Christ)

13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

  • He honestly self-evaluates… and that makes him see he needs to improve
  • He does not live for the past or is haunted by the past
  • He lives for today, tomorrow and eternity

15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you.

  • He ties spiritual maturity living as he has just detailed
  • Those who are mature agree as to what makes one mature
  • Mature Christians believe God reveals truth to His people

16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. 17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.

  • This giving up of progress made is often called backsliding… (temporary)
  • We are to not just admire strong saints, we are to live by their example
  • We are to copy attitudes, values and lifestyle of mature Christians (specifically)

Maturing Christians have a growth plan! You can start your s for 2023 with these 7 resolutions for Biblical Living:

Resolution #1:

Resolve to make knowing Christ the highest priority in YOUR life!

  • Value the ways and words of the Biblical Christ over everything else.

Resolution #2:

Resolve to live trusting God rather than in what You can do!

  • Quit thinking you are righteous based on Your behavior, walk with God by faith.

Resolution #3:

Resolve to embrace hardship while living for Christ!

  • Christ’s resurrection power is experienced living in the midst of hardship.

Resolution #4:

Resolve to be humble and teachable as Christ’s disciple.

  • Be humble as to where you are and learn to be who Jesus bought you to be.

Resolution #5:

Resolve to live focused on future glory instead of past failure.

  • Forget the past and move forward in your life as a disciple
  • Recognize the things that God has called you to live for are eternal.

Resolution # 6:

Resolve to become mature through scripture application.

  • Resolve disagreements & promote unity by ardently seeking God in HIS Word (Common Doctrine)

Resolution #7:

Resolve to follow the example of mature Christians.

  • Study and pattern your life after the life of mature christians, don’t backslide!
  • Consistent serving of God’s people is the standard
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Last Week: The unparalleled act of love by the ‘God of All Creation’, being born a human…the enormity of the sacrifice, limiting HIS BEING… What HE did: Conception! Gestating for 10 months, then being birthed in those conditions… The LOVE it took to do all that…to be incarnated!

This Christmas morning is about: What are we to do in response to this LOVE? How do we live our lives because of The Savior / The Messiah / The Christ / The Incarnation of The Triune God ???

Are we amazed? Are we curious? Are we driven to know and experience MORE of this Incarnation of GOD? Last week the Scripture was our guide to understanding the Love it took to be BORN as a human. This week The Scripture guides us in our response to the Christ Child. Might we let the fullness of what God has done move us to action that glorifies God!

LUKE 2:13-20 (NCV)

13 Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: 14 “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.”

  • A single angel had announced the birth of the Messiah…
  • Then the one angel is joined by a heavenly host to give us the significance
  • This is a look ahead to what God / Christ would ultimately accomplish:
  • #1: Max Glory (Heaven & Earth)
  • #2: Peace with our creator based on HIS Grace (Redemption)
  • Perhaps this short message was repeated between ‘Hallelujahs’!

15 When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.”

  • It is recorded the angels went back to heaven, why did they go?
  • Did the shepherds now realize: ‘This will be the only announcement’
  • They do not wait for more information… There is no debate about what to do…
  • What they have just witnessed moves them to action…
  • They get revelation from God and they become ‘Curious’… and they act!

How curious are you about Scripture? About ‘Real Christian Discipleship’?

16 So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding trough. 17 When they had seen Him, they told what the angels had said about this child.

  • They get there and find exactly what the angel said:
    • Stable / Wrapped in Pieces of Cloth / Feeding Trough
  • They shared the account of the visitation by The Angels (Very Intense Story)
  • The response of the Shepherds was to share what they knew! (let that sink in)

18 Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

  • Everyone who were blessed to hear this were ‘Amazed’

Amazed ~ To regard with admiration, to be filled with wonder, to reverence, to adore, to be astonished. The other two places Luke used the word translated here as ‘Amazed’:

~ Lk. 7:9: How Jesus responded to the faith of the Roman Centurion

~ Acts 7:31: How Moses responded when HE encountered ‘The Burning Bush’

When you are truly amazed by something it changes the way you think and act.

19 Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them.

  • She held this revelation in very high regard (She valued it)
  • Mary was to spend the rest of her life thinking about this night!
  • She most likely was very curious to learn more…

20 Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them.

  • This night would forever change the way they though and acted
  • They continued being shepherds, they worshiped & gave thanks while they did

SUMMARY:

Angelic Announcement / Revelation: The most important thing about ‘This Child’ was that He would glorify God by providing access to peace with God. This could only be The Messiah of Scripture! Once the message was declared to the shepherds, they were curious to know EVERYTHING they could about ‘This Child’. Their amazement became action! Once the Shepherds put it all together they told others what they knew and believed. The amazement of the shepherds became the amazement of others! THIS KIND OF AMAZEMENT = BIBLICAL SALVATION!!!

How have you and will you respond to the Birth of Christ?

Application:

What does peace look like in YOUR life?

When God reveals Himself to YOU, how can YOU be more curious to pursue Him?

When YOU gain biblical understanding about The Gospel, how do YOU communicate it to others?

In YOUR daily life, how do YOU live with worship and thanks because of the Biblical Gospel?

How can YOU specifically be like the shepherds (and Mary) this Christmas and in the new year?

John 1:14

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw His splendor (the splendor as of a Father’s only Son), full of grace and truth. (PHILLIPS)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

The Word became flesh and lived among us. We gazed on His glory, the kind of glory that belongs to the Father’s uniquely existing Son, who is full of grace and truth. (ISV)

The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw His true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From Him the complete gifts of undeserved grace and truth have come down to us. (CEV)
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (MSG)

Christ born as one of us is the ultimate act of love!

What is Love? How do we know it, how do we live it?

To understand love we must understand the incarnation. In this act we can find everything we need to know about what real, pure, perfect, unconditional love is

God created love! God is love! God defines love! The Scripture is the story of the definition and demonstration of God’s love. From Adam to Jesus we see the length and depth, and height and width and girth of God’s love

The story of the nation of Israel… this process of God demonstrating what Love is… AND what Loves is NOT… (Kings of Israel)

The fullness of God revealing His love, defining what true love is, happens in the Incarnation, the Messiah, The Christ…Jesus of Nazareth.

We rightly focus on how it was the ultimate sacrifice for God Himself to die on the cross for those He loved. But I am here to tell you this morning, being BORN was just as big a demonstration of love…perhaps a more intense sacrifice for the all powerful Lord of the Universe! The Length of God’s Love In Christ: He was BORN as a human.It took at least as much love to be born into this world as it took to die on the cross. And that kind of love is for us to experience and copy as Christ’s followers.

I hope this look at love gives us encouragement and challenges us to love like Christ.

Let’s start from where Christ was prior to being BORN as a human being.

John 1:1-4 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

  • John using the term ‘The Word’ to depict Jesus Christ
  • Biblical Christology: correct understanding of who the 2nd person of the trinity is
  • Christ has always existed in community with the Father & Spirit as the triune God
  • He was totally involved in every aspect of Creation
  • He has always had the special role of the one who would give eternal life
  • He has always been the One who would show the way to God for all humanity
  • This is what makes Him ‘The Light’: He is going to illuminate God’s Love for us

Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT)

Though He (Christ Jesus) was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

  • Being God Himself, Christ did not hesitate to become subordinate to the Father
  • He limited His being to become a human
  • The ultimate act of humility…the ultimate act of love
  • He gave up being God for a 33 years! That is a big deal!
  • In love for us He was humbled to be BORN as a human…

Being born as a human God choses to lays down His outside of space & time life. His pre-existant life, His all sovereign life. He laid aside His divinity and was still The Son of God while also The Son of man. This is a profound mystery…something worth spending a lifetime understanding and acting on…we call it Discipleship!

Christ defined love for His disciples on the night before He was crucified

John 15:11-14 (NKJV)

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

  • The things he has spoken of:
    • Productive discipleship takes connectivity
    • God will guide the process of our growth as disciples
    • Experiencing God’s love involves keeping His commands
  • The point of this connected, growing obedience to God is that we learn to love
  • Christ commands us to love like He loves: sacrificially living for others

To understand the vastness of God’s love we need to understand the lengths that He went to to save those He calls. To begin to know His love we have to see what He laid down to be BORN as a human. To be ‘All-Everything’ and then choose to limit your limitless being so you can save your creation… that has consistently taken advantage of your love… THAT IS LOVE!

Let’s look at the event: Luke chapter 2 begins with a road trip. Luke 1 was big on baby announcements

Luke 2:1-3

At That Time… Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register. (This is projection of power & control). This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. (Scripture Cemented in Time) And all went to their own towns to be registered.

Luke 2:4-7 (NCV)

So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David. Joseph went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant. While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough.

  • It’s a four day walk to Bethlehem form Nazareth, pregnant wife on donkey
  • They had to register in the location where their family was from
  • This fulfilled prophecy about the Messiah (Son of David)
  • They were engaged, not married and pregnant… not cool socially
  • We sanitize this scene… it was a cave…the feeding trough was cut out of the wall

God being born as one of us…He could have just gone ‘poof’ & become an adult… God personally experiencing being born: Yikes!

Childhood = Dependence. He allowed himself to be dependent on beings that HE created out of His mind & dirt!

But not just the trauma of childbirth, a poor hard situation (travel & accommodations). Total lack of status, essentials and honor from the creation HE entered into…Why did He make it so hard?

So He would be relatable to all mankind.

If He was willing to do that for us, what are we willing to do for HIM?

1st John 3:16 (NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

  • As followers of Christ we look to Him for everything, HE defines love for us
  • He gave us an example in laying down His life on the cross
  • But He also gave us an example laying down His divinity and being BORN a man
  • So as HIS disciples we do what He did… and we start with our church body

SUMMARY: The Christ BORN is God’s biggest demonstration of His love for humanity, HE is the Light that defines love! Christ BORN as a human is the ultimate condescension, an act of pure love. ~ Condescension is bad human to human… it is a good thing when it’s God to humans! Being BORN, Christ laid down His divinity, His all-everything, His operating outside of space and time as we know it out of love for US! So we can know real love! The completeness of Joy is found in loving like Christ: laying down what you have for others.

APPLICATION:

How would you explain God’s Love to someone who was curious about it?

How can someone follow a sacrificial God without being sacrificial?

What can you ‘lay down’ this Christmas season to demonstrate love to others?

Colossians 1:15-19 (ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…

John 15: Joy To The World

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

What things?

I am the true vine (John 15:1)

Abide in Me, and I in you (v.4)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (v.5)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (v.7)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (v.8)

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (v.10)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…..(Gal 5:22)

Joy is settled satisfaction and contentment with who the Lord is, what He is doing, has done, and will do.

Summary Points:

-No one can deprive you of joy, nor take it from you. Remember David? Psalm 51:12.

-While it is a gift of God and fruit of His Spirit, do not take it for granted.

-If you abide in Him and His Word, His joy will be in you, and with you, and will carry you victoriously through all of life’s disappointments, hardships, and losses.

2nd Samuel 7:8-16: The Promised Hope

8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.

9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly,

11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,

15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Peace Is A Person

Advent proclaims the arrival of the incarnation of the ‘Self-Existent Creator of ALL.’ As in: THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST! Advent literally means ‘The Arrival’…The arrival of salvation in the person of Christ. The arrival of forgiveness, redemption, atonement, justification and grace.

Durning the next 4 weeks we will celebrate the themes of Peace, Hope, Joy & Love as they relate to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we begin with Peace.

What is peace to you? Peace between countries? Between ethnic groups? There is no peace more important than peace with your Creator. The God of Scripture / Jesus Christ. There is no lasting peace except peace with your Creator, no one but God / Jesus Christ has the power to permanently maintain total peace. All other peace is fleeting because of sin… your sin, my sin, the sin of leaders.

At the heart of the Gospel message of the scriptures is the reality of peace with God. Permanent, everlasting peace because God originates it and God sustains it! There is a reason the whole world changed 2020 years ago. So this morning I bring you The Message of Peace! The Incarnation of Peace: Jesus Christ…

Peace Announced: Luke 2:13 & 14 NIV

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

  • The angels make two things clear about the arrival of the Messiah
  • #1. It will glorify God
  • #2. It will provide peace to people who on whom God’s favor rests!

Ephesians 2:11-22 NIV

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

  • Paul is addressing the spiritual condition of Jews and gentiles alike: US
  • All of us start out apart from Peace (Christ)
  • No place amongst God’s people / Aliens
  • Unfamiliar with God’s promises
  • Separated from any Hope…zero chance of redemption
  • Estranged from The Creator (No Relationship)

All of this amounts to a place of enmity and disconnection from The Creator. It is not how it was meant to be…’Shalom’. We were at peace with God, sin wrecked that.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, Who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

  • We can all now be ‘In Christ’ / end of separation because of HIS sacrifice
  • ‘Far Away’ signifies a lack of any relationship (gentiles)
  • The God-man Jesus Christ is OUR peace W/ God, the only peace that matters!
  • Christ’s Sacrifice breaks down the walls between peoples
  • He is addressing the enmity that existed between Jews and non-Jews

15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.

  • Christ’s redemption is for all mankind, uniting us in Him
  • A New Humanity… one that is at Peace with their creator
  • The two are Jew & Gentile, this means everyone
  • God ended the hostility, on the cross!

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an offer of Peace to Jew & Gentile
  • It is the same deal for both groups
  • And it is the same Spirit that by living in us makes us one with the Father
  • Christ’s death pays the price of our sin so we can be united with God

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

  • Because OUR Peace (Jesus The Christ) has come the estrangement is over!
  • We are not ‘Aliens’ but now become citizens
  • We are part of a ‘Spiritual Fellowship’
  • We are part of a structure God built on others and is building in you and I
  • The Peace holding it all together and what everything else rests upon is Christ!
  • This is what we are so excited to celebrate, all of this gives us True Peace!

21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

  • In Him (OUR PEACE) we join together to become a structure of worship (Body)
  • It is by HIS grace and power that He ‘peaces’ it all together
  • He makes us a dwelling place for His Spirit / Shalom

The Peace Beyond Understanding… that comes from the Indwelling Spirit of God. I started with the angels announcing Christ’s birth, I also want to share with you something Jesus said. The Holy Spirit via Paul wrote this passage in part because Jesus The Christ said this:

When Jesus was preparing His disciples for life without Him…

John 14:27 ESV

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Application Questions:

Can you recognize a lack of Peace in your life? Can you ask Jesus Christ to be your Peace?

Do you believe true Peace can only come from being indwelt with God’s Holy Spirit?

What ideas, practices, habits or lifestyles disrupt your Peace In Christ?

How are you going to make the most of this Advent Season?

Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.