1 Peter 1:22-25 “God’s Blessings Won’t Stop with the New Year” 1-1-2017
Pastor Don Sutton – St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, MN
1 Peter 1:22-25
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of perishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
Devotion 1 - Not As Clean as You Think
Do you wash windows? If so, do you ever finish your task thinking that you really got those windows clean, only to discover when the sunlight hits them, that they are not as clean as you think? We have a patio door facing the east that is an ever-present challenge when it comes to being clean. We think it’s as clean as could be until the morning sun shines on it. Then we realize that it’s not a s clean as we think.
Does it we sometimes happen that we morally think that about ourselves in this way – that we are as clean as could be? After all, we’re tax-paying, lawn-mowing, snow-shoveling, hard-working, honest Americans, who don’t murder, don’t steal, and don’t sell drugs. We go to church. We pray. Comparing ourselves to a lot of people in the world in which we live, we’re good.
But if we look at ourselves from the perspective of God’s law, we’re not as good as we think. It reminds us that we were conceived with sin as King David acknowledged in Psalm 51. In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul points out that we come into the world spiritually dead because of sin and as objects of God’s wrath.
We don’t kill, but subtly we may hate and hold grudges. We don’t steal but we may harbor discontent with what we have or not use our possessions wisely. We may envy and covet what others have. We may not sell drugs but we may overindulge in our prescriptions or abuse alcohol or food. We may not commit adultery but we may lust.
Living in a society where are told that we are basically good or at worst, morally neutral; being targets of the devil who tempts us to think that we are good and don’t need a Savior; and having a sinful nature that thinks that somehow we can be good enough to earn God’s favor, there’s the danger that we can think that we are morally cleaner than we are – even clean as could be.
It takes God’s law to remind us that that we are not as clean as we think.
[So let’s examine ourselves in light of the Ten Commandments with Martin Luther’s explanations.]
EXAMINATION / CONFESSION OF SINS
Pastor: Let us now examine ourselves in light of God’s Ten Commandments. In the Commandments God says, “You shall have no other Gods.”
All: We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
Pastor: God directs: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive, or use it for witchcraft, but call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.
Pastor: God wills: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.
All: We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy, and gladly hear and learn it.
Pastor: God mandates: “Honor your father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve and obey them, and give them love and respect.
Pastor: God commands: “You shall not murder.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and be a friend to him in every bodily need.
Pastor: God declares: “You shall not commit adultery.”
All: We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.
Pastor: God demands: “You shall not steal.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not take our neighbor’s money or property or get it by dishonest dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.
Pastor: God directs: “ You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.
Pastor: God wills: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house or obtain it by false claims, but do all we can to help him keep it.
Pastor: God commands: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his workers or his animals or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
All: We should fear and love God that we do not force or entice away from our neighbor his wife, workers or animals, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
Pastor: God says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”
All: God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. I deserve his punishment here and in hell because of my sinfulness and my many sins.
Pastor: God furthers describes himself as “…showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.”
All: But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep his commandments. Therefore, we should love and trust in him and gladly obey what he commands. But the good that I want to do, I don’t do, and the evil I don’t want to do, that I do.
Devotion 2 – Clean as Could Be
“What must I do to be saved?” a jailer in Philippi asked the Apostle Paul and Silas who were imprisoned in his jail after the jailer had heard them speaking and singing about God. Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved… (Acts 16:31).” The jailer obeyed. He believed; but not by his own power. He believed by the power in the gospel message Paul and Silas had spoken. The Holy Spirit worked through that message giving the jailer the power to obey the gospel imperative and believe in Jesus. As he did, he received the forgiveness of sins. He received the holiness of Christ. Even though the jailer was born with sin and probably committed all kinds of atrocities, in Christ he was as clean as he could be.
The people in Asian Minor to whom Peter wrote experienced the same. As Peter says in verses 24 and 25 he and others proclaimed the living and enduring word of the Lord at the heart of which is the gospel of Jesus Christ – perfect in their place, crucified for their sins, and raised for their justification. This living word – living in that it has spiritual and eternal life in it – was what the Holy Spirit used to enable the Asian Christians to obey the truth, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. The Holy Spirit used God’s word to give them spiritual life – to be born again - 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of perishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
So in Christ, these Christians were as clean as could be.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, so are you! Although we have to confess before God that we in and of ourselves as not morally clean the way he wants us to be, as believers in Christ we are as clean as could be. We wear the holiness of Jesus who was perfect in every way. We have the forgiveness of sins because of Jesus who died for our sins. We enjoy the decree of “innocent” that God proclaimed to the world with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We enjoy all this because we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the living and enduring word of God.
Now you are clean as could be – not only as we leave 2016, but as we enter 2017.
Devotion 3 – Living the Clean Life
What a gift from God! But as those Christians of Asian Minor were born again and clean as could be, they were also part of the family of God. As it is natural for members of a family to love one another, with God’s love in their hearts, it was natural that they love one another. So God, through Peter, directed: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
Did you note the description of the love these Christians had and were to show – sincere love …. for each other … deeply … from the heart? God didn’t want a shallow love to which his people would only pay lip service. This was to be a committed, unconditional, and sacrificial love to which they gave life service.
This was so important in a Roman Empire in which Christianity at that time was outlawed and Christians were severely persecuted. These Christians needed each other! They needed each other for comfort, encouragement, and at times even material assistance. Christians were losing jobs, homes, family members, and even life itself. They couldn’t turn to the government for help. But God wanted them to be able to turn to one another.
Don’t these words of God send a message to us? Love one another deeply, from the heart. The love God has put in our hearts is not to be reflected just to him, but also to one another.
Therefore, love one another deeply, from the heart. Treasure your fellow Christians, your fellow church members, as family. Greet and treat one another with love and respect. Get to know one another. Be kind and caring to one another. Pray for one another. When a fellow Christian needs comfort and encouragement, love them and give it. If a brother or sister in Christ needs material help, pull together in Christian love and provide that help. If a fellow Christian does something wrong or something that upsets you, don’t bash and trash that person everywhere with everyone. Lovingly speak to that person about the issue. Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you.
When Christians in Asia loved one another deeply, it sent a message to the unbelieving people around them that God’s love in Christ is powerful. The same is true today when we love one another deeply.
As God has made you as clean as could be in Christ, live the clean life. Love one another deeply.
Devotion 4 – The Lord Is Good!
The Christians in Asia Minor to whom Peter wrote needed one another but they also needed God. They needed God for ongoing forgiveness, strength, and comfort. They needed God for protection. They needed God for provision.
God assured them indirectly through Peter that he was good and would be good to them - For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
God was pointing out that if his word would endure to eternity, God would be present to eternity. He wouldn’t shut down or cease to be. God would be with the Christians of Asian Minor with his love and power to sustain them and work for their good.
These verses assure us of the same as we leave one year and enter another.
I don’t know that 2017 holds for us. I, as you, hope that it is good. But one thing I do know because God tells us so, is that he is good and faithful. I know because he promises that he will be with us to bless and keep us. If he lets trials come into our lives as he did with the Christians of Asia Minor, he will be with us to sustain us and work for our good.
When you have the opportunity read Psalm 91. It’s on the back of the folder. But you can read it at home In your Bible. Note the promises of God. His blessings will not stop as we pass from one year to another. The Lord is good.