Righteous for Unrighteous

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1 Peter 3:18-22

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[d] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[e] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

All Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Full Service, May 10, 2020 (Confirmation Sunday)

1 Peter 2:21-25

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Follow the Footsteps

THE GOOD SHEPHERD OF TRUTH

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will never lead us astray. He always guides us back to the truth, the peace, and the comfort of his resurrection. Truly a fitting thought on Confirmation Sunday, as we focus on the beginning of the walk of faith for these four mature young Christians.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

1 Peter 2:21-25

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Abundance or Scarcity?

Stewardship Sunday
1 Peter 1:3-9

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, 30 seconds, that’s it, that’s all it is, 30 seconds. As many of you are aware, later today will be the much anticipated 2018 Super Bowl. And yes, many of us are disappointed, because the Vikings are not playing in it. But did you know how much one 30 second, just 30 second, television advertisement during the Super Bowl costs? The estimates are over $5 million. That’s crazy! But even crazier, is the fact that people, companies will pay it! Who could afford such costs? Who would you say is the richest American who has ever lived? You might think it would be Jeff Bezos who has surpassed Bill Gates with a fortune of around 115 Billion dollars from the company Amazon which he apparently began in his garage in the 90s, but it’s not him. Actually, the richest American ever was J.D. Rockefeller. He lived in the 2nd half of the 1800s through the first part of the 1900s and founded the Standard Oil Company right when cars and gasoline and oil were beginning to be needed. In todays dollars his fortune totaled somewhere between 300-400 billion dollars. One day he was asked, “How much money is enough?” And you know what he responded? “Just a little bit more.”

“Just a little bit more.” Does that describe your life? Whether you have hundreds of billions of dollars or a little less than that, doesn’t it always feel like we just need a little bit more? There aren’t enough hours in a day, there’s not enough time to finish projects at work, there’s not enough energy to finish the projects at home, not enough money to get what we want, not enough friendships, we’re just a little short. That’s really our human condition isn’t it? That we’re never really satisfied, never quite have enough, we need “just a little bit more.”

There just isn’t quite enough. And perhaps the word that describes that is “scarcity.” We go through life with a kind of scarcity mentality. If I just had a little more time, just a little more energy, just a little more sleep, just a few more friends, but I’m short. Scarcity.

But here’s the problem: it’s a lie. And here’s why, Because if I don’t have enough, that can only mean one thing: that God hasn’t given me enough. And that’s a lie that Satan’s been using since the very beginning. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden had absolutely everything, they had a perfect relationship with God, perfect relationship with each other, the whole earth to rule, but then the devil came and convinced them that they didn’t have enough. “if we just had that fruit, God hasn’t quite given me enough, I need something more, I need something different.” That’s where scarcity began. And what happens next? Exactly what happened in the Garden of Eden: God begins to seem like he demands more than he gives. “Did God really say you must not eat from ANY tree in the garden?” How unreasonable! How awful!

But here’s what happens when we fall into this scarcity mentality: it hurts to give. Generosity is painful. Giving has lost its joy. Here’s a test to see if you’re living in this scarcity lie: How hard is it to give your money away? If it’s difficult and painful- you’ve bought into the scarcity lie. I just need a little bit more.

But that’s not the mindset God wants us to have. He wants to free us from the lie, free us from this attitude that feels that we’re always short. The first thing he does is takes us to a farmer. “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Think of a farmer or a gardener: If you don’t sow seeds, you won’t reap. The farmer has to give to receive. In fact, the more seeds he gives up and the more plants he puts in the ground, the greater his harvest will be. That takes trust doesn’t it? God says that He who gives, receives, and whoever sows generously, reaps generously.

How can you trust God like that? How can you trust God to give generously? Can you count on him? Listen to this: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Did you hear that? While the devil wants to fill us with this mindset that says, “Just a little bit more, then I’ll be happy.” What does God do? He says, “all.” “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is not a God of “just little bit more” but of “all.” God is a God of abundance, not scarcity.

Where does it all start? It starts with this: “God is able to bless you abundantly.” What is this blessing, this grace? Grace is God’s incredible undeserved love for us in Jesus. It’s like this abounding and overflowing love “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). How do we move past this “I need a little bit more” mindset? It’s the grace of God. You have it all! “You will be enriched in every way.” Not long before this section we are told: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Whoever thinks they don’t have enough in life is missing the big picture. Jesus died for you, Jesus has forgiven you, Jesus saved you, Jesus loves you, you are rich- right now!

Being rich isn’t about how much money or time or power you have. It’s found in what you have in God. You might not have a fraction of what Jeff Bezos has, you may never have enough money to by 30 seconds during the Super Bowl, but what do you have? You have God’s peace. You have infinite worth that is not found in how much money you have, but in Jesus’ precious blood shed for you on the cross. You have a freedom that all the money in the world couldn’t buy, you have the freedom of knowing that every single sin you’ve ever committed is forgiven. You’re not short, you have what you need most in all eternity- the overflowing, abundant grace and love of God!

I want to leave you with two practical thoughts. The first is: God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others and the second is: Live with an attitude of abundance. But first, God’s blessings are not to end with us, notice what God says, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” God blesses us with everything that we need for a purpose. He doesn’t want our blessings to come to stop with us. God’s given each of us an amazing purpose in life: you exist to be a blessing for others. God’s abundance flows through us to others!

Think of it like seed money. Seed money is used to start something bigger. The financial company Thrivent gives its members a $250 gift card for seed money in order to do an event to help in the community, you put seed money in your child’s college investments in the hope that it grows. God’s blessings are like that. The money, the time, the possessions, the talents, God gives us are like seed money to sow generously. He gives us blessings to plant them so that they grow and flourish and spread and bless more people with God’s abundance. So how much should I give? What are told? “God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving to others comes from the heart. It reflects your faith. Nowhere will God tell you and me how much we are to give. Rather, God simply leaves that up to you and me. But ask yourself, “What kind of God do I have? Do I have a God of abundance or a God of scarcity? Do I have a God who gives me a little or who gives me all?”

And the second thing is an attitude: Live with this attitude of abundance. It’s so easy to fall into this mindset of not having enough, of being short, but notice what God says! “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Whenever scarcity creeps in tell yourself: “God is able, God is able, all, all, all, I am rich, rich in what really matters for all eternity!” God has given you the exact right amount of time to serve him. God has given you exactly the right amount of money to serve him. God has given you exactly the right talents to serve him. Don’t have an attitude of scarcity, but of abundance.

God is able. Though He was rich for your sakes he became poor so that you through His poverty might be rich. Being joyfully generous is our response to the abundant grace of God! Amen.

Who is Easter For?

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Easter Sunday

Easter is for the guilty (Mark 16:1-7)

Guilt is a powerful thing, isn’t it? Shakespeare pictured guilt so vividly in his play “Macbeth.” The one thing that I remember most about the play is the part where Lady Macbeth is racked with guilt for having encouraged her husband to commit murder in order to become king. Her conscience is bothering her terribly. She even sleep walks and keeps seeing blood on her hands and she keeps trying to wash the spot out but it never goes away.

Do you think the apostle Peter might have been able to relate to Shakespeare’s play? Think of what Peter had done on Thursday and Friday. Put yourself in his shoes. Jesus had warned the disciples that they would desert him. But you had said, “No way! Not me! Never!” Jesus then became really specific with you: “Before the rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.” Then, later on, when Jesus had asked you to keep watch, you’d fallen asleep. You’d then try to prove your loyalty by drawing your sword to fight for Jesus, but Jesus rebuked you. Then, horror of horrors, you’d done exactly what Jesus had said you’d do- you denied knowing him three times. How could you have done that? How could you have been so arrogant? How could you have failed so horribly?

But what do we see in Peter? Don’t we see in Peter our own failures? As Peter falls asleep, we’re reminded of our own spiritual slumber and apathy. In Peter’s denial we hear our own voices, see our own actions, as we’ve “denied” Jesus by rebelling against him with our thoughts, words, and actions. We’ve failed, just as badly as Peter. I’m guessing Peter felt miserable, ashamed, humiliated.

And so what do the angels do? They tell the women not only to tell the disciples, but specifically, “tell Peter” that Jesus had risen. Why so? Because Peter really needed to hear it! Peter needed to hear that his sins were forgiven! Peter really needed to hear that Jesus had conquered, sin, death and the power of the devil!

And we need to hear it too. Each of us has things that weigh on our consciences that really bother us. What is it for you? Is it a big sin you committed long ago? Is it a sin that keeps nagging that you fight against and yet fall into? What do you feel guilty about? What do your regret in life?

The resurrection of Jesus is meant for you! Jesus’ resurrection tells you that YOUR sins are forgiven! Jesus’ resurrection tells you that your slate has been wiped completely clean! Jesus’ resurrection tells you that the devil’s accusations can no longer stand! You have an answer to a guilty conscience! There’s no reason to be paralyzed by regret- your slate has been completely wiped clean- Jesus’ resurrection proves it.

Lady Macbeth did not. The entire play is tragic, and part of it is that Lady MacBeth, wanting peace for her aching conscience, ends up taking her life. How horrible! Her incessant hand-washing could never do what needed to be done.

You, however, have what works! You have the death of Jesus which paid for your sins, and the resurrection of Jesus which proves it to be true! Jesus has washed you completely clean! Easter is for the guilty, Easter is for you!

Easter is for the hurting (Job 19:23-27)

Of all the characters in the Bible, perhaps the one that we have the most empathy for is Job. At the beginning we’re told that Job has just a wonderful life- 10 children, he worships God regularly, has thousands of animals, he’s wealthy, everything is wonderful.

But then, in one day, Job loses almost everything. All of his flocks and herds – gone (imagine losing your house, job, bank accounts, cars everything gone). Then, perhaps most painfully, he loses all 10 children when the house they were in collapsed. Talk about hurting; talk about suffering!

But what was Job’s response: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Then God allowed the devil to attack Job’s health, and he’s afflicted with painful boils all over his body, he actually takes a piece of broken pottery and uses it to scrape himself. At first he responds with faith, but then the whole situation wears on him. He beings to complain, to plead that he’s been innocent and God is not being fair with him. And to make matters worse, some friends of his come and basically tell him, “You must be some really bad sinner to have all this bad stuff happen to you.” But, of course, that’s not the way God works, but his friends insist it. So, Job is suffering, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He’s really hurting.

But in the midst of all his pain Job confesses: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another, how my heart yearns within me.

You see what the resurrection does? The resurrection gives the believer the ultimate hope! Because Jesus physically, actually, bodily, in reality got out of the grave, someday you and I will too! Because Jesus physically, actually, bodily got out of the grace, we will get to see God face to face! We will get to see him and have no fear for we’ve been washed clean in the blood of Jesus. Yes, on this side of eternity we may hurt in all kinds of ways, but we have the ultimate answer to pain – a Savior who has risen from the dead. That means someday I will go to heaven, someday I will be given a glorious new body, someday I will see Jesus face to face, someday I will be delivered from every suffering of this world. I know that because my Redeemer lives! Amen.

It’s For YOU! (1 Peter 3:21-22)

But how do I know that Jesus loves me? How do I know that my sins are forgiven? Those are questions that the devil loves to throw at us. Perhaps I can see how God loves so-and-so, that person is so nice and giving, so honest and helpful. I can see how God loves that person. But me? I know what’s in my heart! I know what’s in my mind! I know my sinfulness! How could God possibly love me?

But the reality is that all are sinful, no one does good, not even one. All are sinful humans who deserve nothing but death. Sure, we see people do great things in this world and by human standards they seem pretty good, but God’s standard is different. God’s standard is perfection and no one lives up to that.

That’s why we needed a Savior. A Savior to live perfectly in our place and die perfectly in our place. And in Jesus we have such a Savior and most importantly in Jesus we have a Savior who rose from the dead proving that salvation has been won.

But how do I know it means me? And that’s where our baptisms become oh-so-beautiful!  In baptism God places His name on the person who’s being baptized.  In baptism God says, “I am washing YOUR sins away.  I am claiming YOU as my child.  I am working faith in YOUR heart.”  In short, as our text puts it, in baptism, God SAVES … YOU!

That’s powerful!  How come baptism can be such a powerful event?  It’s because of Jesus’ resurrection.  You see, in your baptism God connected you to Jesus.  The book of Romans talks about how we “were buried with Him through baptism…”  In other words, in your baptism God sees you as having been so intimately connected to Jesus that it’s as if you went into the tomb with Jesus.  And, the Romans passage goes on to point out, we’ve also been raised with Him!  We’ve not only gone into the tomb with Jesus, but we’ve come out of the tomb with Jesus!  Through your baptism, God has brought you to new life!

And, on the day you were baptized, God gave all the blessings of salvation … to YOU!  Yes, God’s salvation is for everyone, that’s true.  But God also wants you to know that what He’s done for all, He’s done specifically for you.  And your baptism gives you that.  Your baptism saved … you!  Your baptism connected Jesus’ resurrection … to YOU!

And you know when that’s going to mean the most to you?  It will mean the most to you on the day you leave this world.  You will want to know, for-sure, for-sure, that what Jesus did He did for you.  Your baptism is that assurance!  It’s the assurance that God has saved … you!  Amen.

Godly Resolutions for the New Year

DSC_0046

New Year’s Eve 2015

2 Timothy 3:12-17; Joshua 1:8; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Matthew 26:26-29 – Make More Use of the Means of Grace

Earlier this week my family and I were in the Cities visiting family. I spent a little time with my brother Adam there and I helped him change the brakes on his car. My brother doesn’t have that many mechanic tools, so we spent quite a bit of time searching for the right sockets and wrenches to get the job done. And in the process we broke a couple of tools because they weren’t of the right quality to get the rusted bolts off. As we were working in his cold garage I was reminded of an important truth: In order to get a job done, you need to have the right tools.

Well, the truth is, each one of us is a broken project needing to be worked on by God. We have broken thoughts that are so often selfishly directed on ourselves and attempt to justify our sinful behavior, we have broken words that are horribly lacking in building up and encouraging others or praising God, but are filled with the opposite, we have broken actions that give in to temptation. Each of us is in desperate need of God’s repair.

And the truth is, God can do anything. However, when it comes to working on us, God has chosen to work through His tools: the means of grace. Why do we call them “the means of grace”? Because God could have left us on our own, but He graciously chooses to use beautiful ways to bring His grace to us over and over again.

First, God’s Word. God has chosen to speak to us not through premonitions, not through visions in the night, not through whispering in our ears, but through His own inspired Word. Do you want to hear what God has to say to you? He speaks to you through the Bible. And what message do we hear from God in the Bible? In thousands of different ways God tells us about His grace and love for you and me that found a way to rescue us from our brokenness with His Son Jesus who was born to die on a cross to forgive our sins. There on the cross God restored the broken relationship that we had with Him.

Yet, that’s not all! God then brings us everything that Jesus has won for us through the waters of baptism. In baptism God saves you. He saves you by connecting you personally to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through baptism God works faith in your heart. There are times in life when you can feel your sins most severely and Satan is right there pointing his bony finger at you, “How do you know you’re saved? How do you know God loves you? How do you know you’re going to heaven?” There’s one thing that no one can take from you and that’s your baptism. It’s part of your own personal history. In it, as we’re told, God saved you!

And that’s not all! God uses another tool: the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper time and again you receive not just bread and wine, but Jesus’ own body and blood. And for what purpose? The forgiveness of sins. What assurance! What peace! What joy! To receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Through the Lord’s Supper God assures you of His love for you and repairs your relationship with Him!

So, do you want more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control in the New Year? We all need those things because we all need to be repaired by God. How about this resolution for the New Year: Make More Use of the Means of Grace. Amen.

Psalm 63:2-8; Philippians 4:6 – Persistently Practice Praise and Prayer

Attitude makes all the difference, doesn’t it? In my past jobs I’ve worked with quite a few people who ended up being fired. And some of them, it wasn’t because they weren’t hard workers –some were very hard workers, it wasn’t because they weren’t dedicated to our company, it wasn’t because they lost the company money, they were fired because of their bad attitude.

And you know what that’s like. I’m sure you’ve seen it in other people, I’m sure you’ve seen it in yourself. You can wake up in the morning grumpy, angry, sullen, expecting everything to go poorly in the day. And how does the day go for you? Not only is the day miserable for you, you also end up making the day miserable for everyone around you.

Is that right? Is that good? Is that really who we are? Are we really people who have reason to be upset, angry, grumpy and grouchy? No way! If we are, what are we really saying about the gospel? Are we saying it doesn’t affect us? Are we saying it only matters on Sunday morning? Are we saying it doesn’t really change our lives?

You see, we have every reason to praise God…all the time! You have a God who doesn’t treat you like your sins deserve! You have a God who tells you that as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for you! You have a God who reminds you that in Christ Jesus He has cast your sins into the depths of the see where they will never ever be found! You have a God who has won you eternal life! That’s just scratching the surface!

Now, yes, bad stuff happens in our lives. And we can choose to react angrily or we can choose to react to it in view of the gospel. God has restored the relationship between you and Him that means you can go to Him, approach Him, talk to Him in prayer- even when you’re confused, anxious, or troubled and leave it in His hands.

So, looking for another New Year’s resolution? How about this: Praise Him. Wake up in the morning praising your God and Savior who’s rescued you and blessed you in incredible ways and pray to Him. Pray to Him in everything.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Live in Light of the Last Day

New Year’s Eve. We’re closing out 2015, another year done and another year lies ahead of us. One thing that we can say is that although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know that His return is nearer than it was yesterday. Might Jesus return in 2016? He could, we don’t know. And why don’t we know? So we’re constantly ready. And how are we ready? We’re ready as we believe in Jesus as our Savior and live each day like Jesus could return at any moment.

As you notice in your bulletin, this isn’t the only place where the Apostle Paul wrote about the Last Day. It was something that was constantly on His mind and something He was constantly reminding people about. So, what’s the lesson for us? The Last Day puts our lives in the proper perspective.

Jesus could return at any moment. And it’s going to be great! It’s nothing to fear, it’s something to look forward to. Jesus is coming to take us to our real home, our heavenly home –that’s great!

Here’s a  New Year’s resolution for you: Live in Light of the Last Day. Live like Jesus is returning tomorrow and this is your Last Day. If you do that, your relationships with others will be stronger- you’ll be more willing to repair any wrongs and express your love to your loved ones, you’ll have less stress – God might just take care of everything tomorrow by returning, and you’ll have more joy and probably more energy – Jesus is coming! What could possibly be better than that? Amen.

Commit Yourself to your Faithful Creator

17th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Peter 4:12-19

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who took up His cross to suffer and die for our salvation, dear friends in Christ,

They hurled stones at Stephen until bloodied and beaten he fell asleep in death. They left the apostle Paul once for dead after stoning him, he was flogged and beaten, placed in stocks, put in prison.   At first Christianity was just considered a weird offshoot from Judaism, but later it was considered an illegal religion in the Roman empire. Under emperor Nero (54-68 AD), the burning of a part of the city of Rome was blamed on Christians, hundreds of Christians were arrested, convicted of antisocial beliefs, covered with the skins of wild animals, torn to death by dogs, crucified, covered with pitch and set on fire to light the night like torches. Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) insisted that his subjects all refer to him as “lord and god” and if they didn’t they could face exile, punishment or death.  Under the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) Polycarp the 86 year old bishop of Smyrna was ordered to curse Christ and offer incense to the emperor. To which Polycarp responded, “Eighty-six years I have served him [Jesus], and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) thoroughly disliked Christians and ordered the execution of many, dozens were tortured and killed in France, he then authorized his agents to kill any professing Christian “according to law.” The next emperor made baptism a crime. Emperor Diocletian (284-305) demanded sacrifice to Roman gods, and in February of 303 ordered the destruction of all Christian churches, the dissolution of all congregations, the confiscation of all Christian property, the exclusion of Christians from public office, and death for any Christian caught in public assembly.

That’s just a small sampling of the persecutions that the Christians faced. Christians have been persecuted for their faith throughout history. In fact, some have even surmised that there have been more Christians killed for their faith in the past century than in all the previous centuries combined.  Suffering for your faith doesn’t just happen physically, perhaps that’s the most noticeable, but it can happen mentally and emotionally as well. It can happen when someone is led to be ashamed or afraid about speaking God’s Word – especially when it comes to things like homosexuality or abortion.  It can come when a Christian is afraid to let people know that he or she is a Christian because that might change the way they look at him or her. It can come in the form of words like being considered a “Bible-thumping Christian” by some or facing ridicule for not going along with the crowd. It can come in the work place when you’re passed over for a promotion because of your Christian morals or values.

Well, in this letter written by the apostle Peter, he’s likely writing to believers scattered throughout the area we call Turkey. Peter had apparently heard that they were beginning to face persecution for their faith. So he wrote this letter to encourage them in their suffering. He says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something stranger were happening to you.” Literally, don’t be surprised at the “fiery ordeal for testing which is happening to you.” The word indicates an “intense degree of some painful occurrence.” Don’t be surprised if you are suffering. Rather, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Wow! That sounds strange! “Don’t be surprised,” “Rejoice” in suffering? How do you participate in the sufferings of Christ? It happens when we suffer because of Jesus, when the hatred that struck Him, strikes us because of Him. We rejoice in suffering so that “you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When is that? That’s the Last Day, when Jesus returns you will be “overjoyed.” Here the word is literally picturing exulting, overflowing with joy, skipping and bubbling over with shouts of delight. So when we fix our eyes on the glory that awaits us when Jesus returns, the momentary suffering that we endure in this life for our faith, can actually be endured with joy!

Here’s another strange statement: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” No one really likes to be made fun of, mocked, or insulted. But if you are insulted because of your faith in Jesus, God says that you are blessed. How so? First, it shows that you’re a Christian, that you wear Jesus’ name. If people look down on you because of your faith, because of your values, because of your morals, because you don’t blend in with the sinful crowd, because you live differently than the majority of the people in the world, it means you wear Jesus’ name. That’s a great thing! Also, whenever you’re insulted because of your faith in Jesus, you may hear insults here, but this is what God is saying to you, “My child, you’re blessed!”

He goes on, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” Not all suffering is bearing a cross for Christ. We can bring a lot of suffering upon ourselves by our own poor choices or decisions. A person who steals or murders someone is going to face a lot of suffering both from his own conscience but also from hard hand of the law. On the other hand, if you suffer because you’re Christian – maybe from coworkers or your boss or the government or worldly friends or acquaintances – be glad, don’t be ashamed, praise God that you ARE a Christian.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’” Judgment begins with us. We are judged by the world to be connected with Jesus, to be Christian. That’s not always easy, that may include a lot of difficulty. But that doesn’t mean give up! What’s the outcome for the unbeliever? What’s the outcome for those who don’t believe the gospel? It’s hell, real, literal, and eternal suffering and death in hell.

So what should we do? “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Entrust or deposit yourself with God for safekeeping. He’ll keep you, watch you, defend you, and bring you safely home to heaven. Don’t give in. Don’t sin, keep doing good. When we’re opposed for our faith, when we suffer for our faith, those are optimal times for giving a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus.

Look at who God is: He is the faithful Creator. What is God like? He created all, He can do absolutely anything, He has all power, all might, all control. God owns all things! God knows everything, no one can pull one over on God, there’s never been a time when God wasn’t, God is absolutely supreme, no one has been or ever will be smarter than God. So, we look at that and wonder, wouldn’t it make sense that God’s children, His people, would be kings and queens in this world, that everything they do would work out, that everything turn out well for them, that they enjoy all the wonderful things that this world has to offer, right? Makes sense right?

But what do we see? Joseph spends two years in prison for refusing to sin with Potiphar’s wife, Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den because he prays to the true God, John the Baptist is beheaded for confronting sin, the apostle Paul suffers all kinds of things because he wants to share the good news of Jesus.  Jeremiah the prophet ends up sinking in the mud of a cistern; left to die because he shared God’s Word. The people to whom Peter wrote faced untold suffering.

It’s so easy for us to think that if we belong to God, that if we rest securely in the arms of the King of the universe, that we should be shielded and protected from every sorrowful thing, every pain and trouble, every affliction, and instead, enjoy only wonderful things, joys and pleasures in this life, right? But, instead, what happens? Believers suffer. “Why Lord? Why this? Why now? Why me? Why this person or that person?” God has never promised us an easy earthly life, rather, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to come after me MUST deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

This we know about all our suffering: our loving, kind Father permits it all for a reason. In fact, He even wills it. Nothing can happen in this world without first going through God. No, God does not want or will the evil that happens in this world, nor is He responsible for it. Evil and wicked things happen in this world because of sin, because of Satan, because of sinful wicked people. But, God who has the ability to intervene, to thwart, to stop the wicked in this world, often from what we see, He does not. Why? Because our all powerful God is so powerful that He can actually use the wicked actions of people for the good of His people.

So, commit yourself to your faithful Creator! First, because He’s in control. God never loses control of events in this world. Things never get out of hand for Him. God sets definite limits to wickedness. God never asks us to bear more than we are able. God promises to give us strength to carry every carefully measured load that He gives us! We don’t carry burdens one moment longer than God wills it. God is in control!

Commit yourself to your faithful Creator! Second, because God is deeply concerned about His Word. When we suffer because we are Christian, God is fulfilling His Word. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” In a way Suffering shows us that God keeps His Word. God’s Word is absolutely dependable and that means we can rejoice in the midst of suffering because when God says we’re forgiven, we are, when God says He’s with us, he is, when God says He’s leading us home to heaven, He is. His Word is absolutely dependable!

Finally, commit yourself to your faithful Creator! Lastly, because He always has a purpose in view. Things don’t just happen by chance. There is NO such thing as blind fate. So why does God permit crosses to fall on His people? It’s not punishment! God’s people are NEVER punished; they are only corrected or disciplined. Jesus suffered all our punishment and God will NOT punish the same sins twice. So whenever we face difficulty it is sent by God without even a trace of punishment in it, but only love to drive us closer to Him. Crosses come into our lives to strip us away from our love affair with this world and lead us to cling only to our Lord.

And that’s what’s so important. Suffering leads us to depend only on Jesus. With Jesus we have everything that we need. With Jesus we have forgiveness. With Jesus we have eternal life. So with Jesus we can face… anything. How did those believers do it? How were they willing to die rather than deny their faith? Because in Jesus they had everything. In Jesus you too have everything and that means with Jesus you can face absolutely anything in this life with joy, with confidence and continue to do good. Commit yourself to Him. Amen.

Musical introduction: Holy Spirit, Light Divine by Kari Ekhoff