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Thursday, September 16, 2021

You Are Invited to Celebration Sunday 2021!


Dear Church Family,

I am so pleased and excited to get to invite you to this year’s special Celebration Sunday worship time at Lanse Evangelical Free Church!

On Sunday, September 26th at 10:00am we are going to have another special outdoor worship gathering here out in the field on our church campus, and I’m hoping that everybody can come.

We’re celebrating 129 years of God’s faithfulness to us as a church family with some really special events.

Matt Cox from Miracle Mountain Ranch will be our guest preacher that Sunday, and he’s promised to bring along some four-footed friends to help him with his message. If you’ve never heard Matt Cox do a “Message from the Mount,” you’re in for a treat! I think he’s planning to bring at least a steer, a horse, and a dog. And maybe they’ll get to pose with us in our annual church family photo! I don’t think we’re going to have to use a drone this year. We’ll get to be closer together than we were last year for the picture though we’ll make sure that everybody still feels safe.

Even more special, we are planning to have testimonies and baptisms on Celebration Sunday. It’s been a while since we have done baptisms, and we’re still working out the final logistics, but I’m excited to assist a few people to publicly proclaim their faith in Christ and identify with His death, burial, and resurrection! 
   
Here’s what you need to know to prepare:

Weather-permitting, we’re all going to be out the field like we were last year. We’ll have some chairs set up and also available for you to put where you are comfortable, but you’re also welcome to bring along your own lawnchairs and canopies and even park out in the field for tailgate style worship. We may not have FM transmission, but we will have a strong sound system so that everybody can hear.

If you are able-bodied and not tailgating, please park on other side of the church and walk over. Let’s leave the prime parking spots for those who need the shorter walk or are going to worship from their cars. There will be welcome tables to grab a worship bulletin and to give your offering, and after the photo to enjoy some celebratory sweets and fellowship.

Live music will begin at 9:30am, and the service will begin promptly at 10:00. Pray for nice weather just like last year. Especially for those of us who are going to get wet with the baptisms!

If we are outside, we are not going to have children’s church or nursery because everybody will want to watch Matt Cox and the “critters” in the Message from the Mount. If it’s too wet, we’ll move inside and offer our usual outdoor options. And even then, we’ll have nursery but not children’s church because I expect Matt’s message to be one the little kids won’t want to miss.

This will be last month for having a totally outdoor worship time like we have on the last Sunday of the month all summer so, again, please pray for nice weather.

Regardless of the weather, however, please plan to come and invite your friends. This is a great opportunity to gather together, to all worship in one place at one time, and to praise our God for His great faithfulness to Lanse Free Church for 129 years.

See you at Celebration Sunday on September 26th at 10:00am!

-Pastor Matt

Sunday, September 12, 2021

"Angels Long to Look Into These Things" [Matt's Messages]

“Angels Long To Look Into These Things”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 12, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:8-12

If you remember, verses 3 through 12 are one long sentence in the original Greek that Peter wrote to the “elect exiles” scattered throughout Asia Minor.

These very loved and very displaced people received this letter from the pen of the Apostle Peter to give them hope and direction as they experienced fiery trials.

Peter begins with praise because of the living hope, the guaranteed inheritance, that  is perfect and safe and perfectly safe that sustains followers of Jesus Christ no matter what various trials come upon them to test their faith and will result in glory when Jesus Christ returns.


What in the world could make an angel curious?

What would it take to fascinate an angel of God?

That last sentence in verse 12 is just astonishing, isn’t it?

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

The Christian Standard Bible says, they “long to catch a glimpse of these things.”

It interests the angels to no end!

I don’t know about you, but the word “curious” is about one of the last words that I would come up with to describe angels.

Angels are powerful.
Angels are mysterious.
Angels are flames of fire.
Angels are fearsome.
Angels are warriors.

Angels are...curious??!

Most of the time, when an angel shows up in the Bible, they have a message from God. They don’t have questions. They have answers!

But in verse 12, Peter pulls back the curtain a little bit more and reveals one more thing about angels. There are some things in the world that just totally fascinate them. There are some things that angels marvel at. Their jaws drop (if they have them), and their eyes bug out as they study these things.

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

Isn’t that astonishing?

It’s even more astonishing when you come to understand that Peter is saying that what they long to look into is something that you and I as New Testament Christians are currently experiencing!

They are on the outside curiously looking in, and you and I are on the inside.

It’s not that they’re not involved. They are involved, and have been from the beginning.

But they are involved from the outside, so to speak. You and I who belong to Jesus are experiencing these things on the inside.

We have a privileged position.

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

So. What are “these things?”

I think it’s everything from verses 3 through 12.

But it can probably be summed up with a beautiful powerful word that appears at the end of verse 9 and then right again at the start of verse 10.

“Salvation.”

V.9, “You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

And by soul, it doesn’t just mean the immaterial substance of your spirit. It really means your whole self. The soul is the whole self.

You are receiving the salvation of your souls from sin, and death, and Hell.

That’s what the angels are fascinated by.

They are just captivated and delighted and enthralled and totally interested to study out how God is saving you and me!

Have you ever thought about that? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. They are not impressed by you and me.

Gabriel is not like, “Hey, Michael, you’ve got to see this Matt Mitchell guy. He’s really impressive.” 

No. It’s actually the opposite. “Hey, guys, you have seen what the Triune God is doing with that sinner? Did you see what kind of grace the Lord has on display? Do you see how the Master is bringing about the salvation of his soul? Astonishing!”

Even angels long to look into human salvation.

There is very little hint of angelic salvation in the Bible. Jesus did not die for the fallen angels (though His death will renew them and their world). 

But He did die and rise again to give living hope to humans who would put their faith in Him.

And that intrigues the angels to no end!

Verses 10 through 12 tell us that it wasn’t just the angels who were intrigued.

The Old Testament prophets were also curious. Look at verse 10.

“Concerning this salvation [the salvation of your souls], the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

Now, there are a lot of words there, but the main point is pretty clear.

The Old Testaments prophets–like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Daniel–those guys–were prophesying to Israel then but also of things to still to come. And they were really curious to understand how what they were writing was all going to come about.

I mean think about being Isaiah writing Isaiah 53! You know that the Holy Spirit is stirring your heart to write, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [Isaiah is writing...] Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (vv.3-5).

And you’re Isaiah, and you say to God, “Who is that? Who will that be? And when will that be?” The prophets asked that question over and over again. “When?!”

Peter loves his Old Testament, especially Psalms and Isaiah. And he’s going to quote it again and again as we read his letter.

But he knows that they didn’t know when and how all of their prophecies were going to coalesce and be fulfilled!

They could see, the Spirit was showing them, the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. In shadowy form, they could see the Cross and the Empty Tomb and the Kingdom to come.

But not Who and not When. Verse 12.

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

Did you catch all of the “to you’s” there?

Verse 10, “the grace that was to come to you.”
Verse 12, “they were not serving themselves but you
Verse 12, “told you by those who have preached the gospel to you.”

Peter is saying that the elect exiles reading his letter (and by extension you and I today) have an advantage over both the Old Testament prophets and the angels of God!

Think about that!

Have you ever wished that you lived in the Old Testament and could see the miracles of God with your own eyes? The Red Sea Rescue. The Walls of Jericho come tumbling down. Goliath falling to one small smooth stone. The golden temple being erected. The fire falling on the wet sacrifice on Mt. Carmel. The Hebrew children emerging from the fiery furnace without even smelling of smoke!

Well, they wished that they could be in your shoes on this side of the Cross.

When the mystery has been revealed.

It was all leading up to you! To what God was doing with you!

Have you ever wished that you were an angel?

A powerful spiritual messenger of God. Un-fallen. Sinless. Flaming with purity.

Attending God in His throne room.  Un-suffering. (As far as we know.)

I’ll bet these precious followers of Jesus receiving Peter’s first letter envied the angels when they were experiencing persecution in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

But Peter says that the angels longed to look into what was happening to them.

What God was up to in their lives. In their human salvation.

I think that’s truly amazing.

You and I have an advantage over the prophets and the angels.

Because the prophets were predicting the grace that has come to us now and the angels watch it play out from the outside when you and I are in!

How does that make you feel?

Why do you think that Peter tells us all of this?

What is he trying to do to us when we read this?

This isn’t just a set of curious facts that Peter happens to throw in for good measure.

He’s trying to do something in our hearts. What do think it might be?

Remember, these people were suffering. They were displaced physically. And they were displaced spiritually. They were not home. They were not in their homeland. They were exiles. Refugees. Sojourners. Foreigners. And they were feeling it.

And they were being made to feel it. They were experiencing some persecution and other various kinds of suffering.

They hurt.

Their lives hurt.

And I think it would be easy to feel sorry for yourself in that situation, right?

Anybody here struggling right now with feeling sorry for yourself?

Not just feeling sad but feeling envious of anybody who has it better than you or me?

Not just feeling lament and grief but jealousy or angry and self-pitying.  

“O poor me. O poor me.”

I fall into that one all of the time, and I know that objectively I am very blessed.

But a little bit of suffering, and I’m throwing myself a major pity party.

Peter will have none of it. Peter was bent on showing these Christians how good they have it. How loved they are. How safe they are. How known and accepted and chosen and blessed.

At least in these ways, we have it better than Isaiah or Daniel or the angel Gabriel!

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

That YOU are living right here, right now.

So what might be the application of this for us today?

Well, starting in the very next verse, Peter lays out some major points of application. We’ll jump into that next week, Lord-willing, in verse 13.

But for now, I think the application is just to keep doing what you’re already doing as a true follower of Christ. It’s the things in verses 8 and 9.

You might have noticed that we have largely skipped over verses 8 and 9 so far today. Let’s go back up and look more closely at them. V.8

“Though you have not seen him, you love him...”

There’s application point number one.

#1. YOU LOVE HIM.

This verse is talking about Jesus. Verse 7 said that one day soon Jesus Christ will be revealed.

But right now, He is hidden from view.

These Christians have never seen Him. Never laid eyes on Him.

Peter has. But he knows that these folks have not.

And yet they love Him!

How about you?

Raise your hand or honk if you have seen Jesus with your own eyes.

I don’t expect to hear even one honk.

Now. Raise your hand or honk if you love Jesus.

Isn’t that amazing?

You love somebody you’ve never seen?!

“Angels long to look into these things.”

Just keep loving Him.

You know it’s right to.

Jesus is the most amazing Person to ever live. To ever die. To ever live again.

He has shown you amazing love. Love Him back.

Cherish Jesus. Love Him more than anything else in the whole wide world.

It’s okay to love other things, but love Jesus more than anything.

Love Him so much that it could be said that you hate everything else in comparison.

Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Love Him.

He loved you especially when in hurt. V.8

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him...”

That’s number two.

#2. YOU BELIEVE IN HIM.

You’re already doing it. Keep doing it. Keep trusting Him.

Peter says that even though you do not see him now, you continue to put your faith in Him. You find Jesus trustworthy.

Does anybody see Jesus right now? With your physical eyes?

No. But do you trust Him?

I know you do.

By the way, you know that you trust Him when you see yourself obeying Him.

Our faith comes out in our works.

Our works do not save us, but they can show us that we are saved.

You trust Him.

You trust Him even when it hurts.

Not only can you not see Him right now, but you can see your troubles.

Keep on trusting Him anyway.

Now, that’s not something that we should do with just anybody, right?

Some people should not be trusted when they are out of sight.

Toddlers and politicians for example.

But you know Jesus. 
And you love Him.
And you trust Him.

You believe in Him even though you do not see Him now.

“Angels long to look into these things.”

That’s God’s work in you!

And one more. V.8 again. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

#3. YOU REJOICE IN HIM.

You’re already doing it. 

All true Christians do this.

Because of what Jesus has done, because of the sufferings of Christ predicted by the Old Testament prophets long ago, we are receiving the end result of our faith, the biggest thing we’ve been trusting Him for, the salvation of our entire beings.

We ARE receiving it.

Notice how certain that is.

Everything we saw last week about how perfectly safe our salvation is kept in heaven and how we are being kept safe for our salvation “shielded by God’s power.”

We ARE by faith receiving that salvation, and no power in the universe can stop it!

So we cannot help but rejoice!!

We “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy[!]”

We have no words for it; it so good.

We "are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy[!]"

Of course we are! 

We rejoice in Him.
We rejoice in Jesus.
Even when it hurts.

That’s what it takes to make an angel curious.

“Angels long to look into these things.”

They say, “Wow! Wow! Wow! Would you look at that? How amazing is the work of our Triune God!

They love Jesus. Even though they have never seen Him!
They trust Jesus. Even though they do not see Him now!
They rejoice in Jesus even though they are hurting really really bad.

Would you just look at that? How fascinating!

Just catch a glimpse of what the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are doing right here, right now...in them!”

May God get the glory.


***

Saturday, September 11, 2021

"Turn and Trust - 9/11" [Matt's Messages]

What follows is the unedited manuscript of the message I preached the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At that time the death-toll was estimated to be about 5,000 people. The official number turned out to be 2,977 which is devastating to consider. 

As we mark this day 20 years later, may we continue to remember the awfulness of what happened, to applaud with gratitude the courage and service of so many who ran into danger, and to learn the lessons the Lord wants us to hear and to heed.

World-Trade-Center 9-11
AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

"Turn & Trust"
September 16, 2001
Luke 13:1-9

What do you say after a week like this?  As you know, on Tuesday, terrorists succeeded in leveling the World Trade Center and killing thousands of people.  The Pentagon was attacked by another hijacked airplane and yet another dug a deep crater south and west of here in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Our nation has been attacked.  The death toll is higher than Pearl Harbor and the Titanic combined.  The nation has been in crisis-mode all week with planes grounded and financial markets frozen.

This has been the greatest American tragedy in my lifetime, and most of the week I had no idea what I was going to say to you this morning because of my grief for the nation.

What do you say?  In 5 short days, our country has gone through shock, fear, exhaustion, and mourning in quick succession.  It’s been overwhelming.

Christian leaders from around the country have urged that this day be set apart as a “National Day of Mourning and Prayer” and have urged pastors everywhere to give words of comfort and consolation to our congregations.

And that is right.  We need to hear words of comfort–words about the powerful love of God that cannot be separated from us who are in Christ Jesus (Did you hear George W. Bush quote Romans 8 on Friday?).  And we need to hear words of consolation–words about the God who cares about pain and suffering and is powerful enough to do something about it.  A God who is great and a God who is near–just like Pastor Russell told us a few weeks ago.

But there is a word that is conspicuously missing from the national dialogue this week.  I have not heard it on National Public Radio or heard about it being spoken on the television or written in the newspapers.

And that word is “repentance.”  Repentance.

And while I intend to share words of comfort this morning, I believe that God is calling for Christian leaders to call people to repent because of this tragedy.  Don’t just mourn.  Don’t just pray.  Don’t just hold candlelight vigils.  Repent!

Why do I say that?  Because Jesus said it.  Let’s look at Luke chapter 13, verses 1-9.

V.1.  “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”

Jesus receives some bad news just like we received bad news this week.  People from his homeland had been killed while worshiping.  Imagine some armed thugs breaking in here right now, and slicing some of our throats and then pouring our thick, red blood on the communion table.  That’s how horrible this was.  Pilate’s men had killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with the blood of bulls, rams, goats, and doves on the altar in the temple.

And some people shared this bad news with Jesus.  And Jesus knows what they are thinking.  You see, the prevailing notion of the day was that if someone suffered like this, then they must have been an extraordinary sinner to deserve it.  Remember the story of Job from late January?  Job’s quote-unquote friend Eliphaz said, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?  Where were the upright ever destroyed?  As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:7)  One for one.  Sin for suffering.  That was the prevailing notion.

Strangely enough, something almost opposite is the prevailing notion today–and that is that there is almost no sin worthy of perishing.  That those who worked in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and were flying on commercial airliners did in no way deserve their fate on Tuesday.  They were completely innocent and should not have suffered at all.  That is today’s prevailing notion.

And both notions are partly right and mostly wrong.  Jesus saw things far differently than we often do.  And he saw them absolutely accurately.  He is the one human who absolutely accurately saw reality clearly as it really is.

V.2 is Jesus’ stunning answer to the bad news.  And it is shocking to today’s ears.

“Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”

Their suffering was not in proportion to extraordinary sin.  Their suffering was in proportion to ordinary sin.

The wonder in the world is not that people suffer.  The wonder is that people don’t suffer more often because we are all ordinary sinners–and deserve a fate worse than death.  That’s Jesus’ perspective.

He takes this bad news as normal.  And uses it as an opportunity to warn people to repent.  “Unless you repent, you too will perish.”

To perish means to die.  And he means much more than just physically dying, because we all do that (even repentant people), it means spiritually dying, spending eternity in hell–conscious eternal torment.

“Unless you repent, you too will perish.”

Jesus is saying, those Galileans met a dreadful end.  But they were no worse than you.  And you, too, will meet a dreadful end unless you repent.

But someone might say, those Galileans probably did something against Pilate to deserve some action.  We don’t know what, but that wouldn’t be surprising.  So Jesus, goes out of his way to show that this principle of God’s wrath applies to natural disasters, too.  V.4

Jesus says, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Now, 18 sounds like a very low number compared with 5000, but here we have a building falling on top of people and killing them.  Would Jesus have mourned their deaths? I believe, yes, He would.  He hated death. Jesus hated the enemy of death. Would Jesus have comforted and consoled the families of the victims left behind in the wake of the tower of Siloam tragedy?  I believe, yes, He would.  He wept with those who wept and cared for people like a gentle shepherd.

But He also cared about their souls.  And He knew that their deepest need was for repentance.  “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

You and I deserve a fate worse than a building falling upon us.  We deserve the torment of Hell because we are ordinary (not extraordinary!) ordinary sinners.

That’s what Jesus says!

On one level, of course, we are shocked by what has happened this week.  We thought we were generally safe and secure and protected by the military might of the United States of America.

But on a reality-level, we should be shocked every day that we don’t die in a worse way!  Because we are sinners.  And God is absolutely holy.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus is sounding a warning.  A warning to everyone here in this room.  A warning to everyone in our country.  A warning to everyone who hears about this tragedy all over the world.  And, yes, a warning to those who perpetrated this atrocious crime against our nation.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

When Jesus hears or tells of a tragedy, he reminds the crowd that God is holy, and we are sinful.  God is righteous, and we are unclean.  God is just, and we are rebellious.

God would be and is right to cause us to perish.  And every tragedy is a warning bell going off for us to repent while there is still time.

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Those are not my words.  I didn’t want to say them this morning.  But they are Jesus’ words.  And He would not let me say anything else.

Jesus says, “Do you think that the 5,000 people buried under the World Trade Center were worse sinners than the ones who escaped?  Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Those are hard words.  But I have good news for you this morning:

#1.  There is time for us to repent today!

Starting in v.6, Jesus tells a story, a parable, that further explains his point of view . It is scary, but also full of hope.

After saying, “‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any.  Cut it down!  Why should it use up the soil?’` ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine!  If not, then cut it down.’`”

Notice, that this story comes on the heals of the warning to repent.  The fig tree is you and me.  And God’s justice is looking for fruit on us, “the fruit of faith, the fruit of repentance.”  And He has not found it.  So He plans to cut us down (that is to judge us!).  But there is another part of God’s character–His mercy, His longsuffering, His patience–that stays His hand for another period of time with more gracious care and fertilizing words of promise rained down upon the fruitless fig-tree.

This parable is saying that God is patient–that there is time today for us to repent.

If you are listening to this sermon, if you are alive: breathing, thinking, weighing what I’m saying, then God is being patient with you and giving you a chance right now to repent.  My words are the vinedresser’s care and fertilizer for you. God is calling you now while there is time to repent.

2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness [some of you are wondering why God does not strike Osama Bin Laden dead right now.  2 Peter 3:9 says...] God is patient with you [why doesn’t God strike you dead right now?], not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

For those of us who are unrepentant today, God is saying, “Don’t cut the tree down just yet.  Wait a bit.  I have every right to cut this tree down, but I will give him or her more time for the fruit of repentance.”

The good news this morning is not only that God has sounded a warning that we should repent, but God is also giving us time to repent.

God is not just holy and righteous.  God is merciful and patient.

And the second good news is even greater!

#2.  God is granting life to those who repent!

Jesus said (in both v.3 and v.5), “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But the opposite is also true, “If you repent, you will have life!”  That’s the opposite of perishing.

John 3:16:  “God so loved the world (that’s despicable people like you and me) that He gave His One and Only Son (Jesus Christ, the One who Himself suffered the wrath of God upon sin,) that whoever [repents] and believes in him shall NOT PERISH but have eternal life.”

John 10:27:  Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. [Unsnatchable! Safe!] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all [greater than the US Government, greater than Osama Bin Laden, greater than the fear of death, greater than all] no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  (John 10:27-29)  Safe and secure from all alarms!

The greatest news in all the world is that God has provided a substitute to perish in our place so that if we come to Him repentantly we will not suffer the pains of Hell.  And we will be safe!  At home in God!  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty!” (Psalm 91:1)

Not perishing, but having eternal life.

Life, brothers and sisters! Life!  Abundant life!  The terrorist comes to steal, and kill, and destroy, but Jesus has come so that we might have life! And life abundantly! Life in the fullest sense of term. Life that we can’t begin to imagine the joys of!

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But if you do repent, you will have life!

I can’t think of a more comforting and consoling phrase to hang onto in a week of death than “eternal life.”  God is granting life to those who repent.

So repent!  Repent!  Repent!

What does that mean?  Let me put it this simply:

To repent means to turn from sin and trust in Him.

I think we can all remember that.  To repent means to turn from sin and trust in Him.

It’s not just saying, “I’m sorry,” It means making a break from the passing pleasures of sin, of choosing our own way to live our lives, and trusting in Him.  Looking to Him to be our soul’s satisfaction and asking Him to run our lives.

In preparing to build a house this Fall, I’ve learned a lot about contracts.  If you don’t set the terms, someone else will set them for you.

And God is God.  And He offers the only terms acceptable to Him–total surrender.  No bargaining. No giving Him only Sundays and Wednesday Nights.  No token prayers.  Total surrender.

Turn from sin and trust in Him.

If you are an unbeliever or living like one this morning, I call you, with Jesus, to repent.  You are a sinner deserving of Hell (just like I am).  But God is holding your catastrophe back and giving you this chance right now to repent. Turn from your sin and put your trust in Him.  Surrender.  Ask Jesus right now to forgive your sin and rule your life.  Give Him the steering wheel of your life.

If you are a professing believer right now, I call you, with Jesus, to repent.  You and I are no better than those who suffered on Tuesday. We need to turn from our self-satisfied sins and trust in Him.  We need to make Him our All-in-All, our sufficiency, our greatest treasure, our joy.  We need to be able to say, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!”

Our nation needs to repent.  Not just pray, not just hold candlight vigils, not just mourn.  But repent.  I pray that many and not few would bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ because of the warning of this tragedy.  Because if they do not, the real tragedy will be even worse.

On Tuesday, those who had not repented perished–not just once but twice–and the second death is eternal.  But those who had surrendered their lives in repentance to Jesus Christ were ushered into His glorious presence and found out what life truly is.

If you repent today, no matter who you are, you will have life.  God is holding back for repentance, and God is granting life through Jesus to all who surrender to Him.

What is holding you back?

“Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  But if you do repent, you will have life!

Sunday, September 05, 2021

"A Living Hope" [Matt's Messages]

“A Living Hope”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 5, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:3-7

Who needs some encouragement this morning?

I don’t know anybody who would refuse some true encouragement. 

And I’m finding that these days many Christians need a big healthy dose of it. I know I do.

How badly do you need encouragement today?

What kind of a week have you had? What kind of a week do you expect? What are you facing right now and how do you feel about it? Who needs some encouragement this morning?

Well, get ready to be encouraged!

The Christians to whom the Apostle Peter was writing his letter definitely needed encouragement.

They were suffering.

They were suffering from persecution.

They were hurting.

And they were far from home.

We learned last week in the very first verse that they were exiles, resident foreigners scattered throughout Asia Minor in what is now Northern and Western Turkey. 

And more than just physical ethnic exiles, even more importantly, they were spiritual exiles. They were not in their spiritual homeland either. And neither are we.

This world is not our home. We are citizens of a kingdom that has not yet come in its fullness. We are emissaries and ambassadors of that kingdom, but we are not home yet. We might be in our homes, but our homes are not in our true homeland.

And when we live like citizens of that kingdom that is coming, we often get into trouble with the kingdoms in which we presently live.

That was what these believers in Jesus were experiencing. They were hurting.

And Peter was writing to encourage them.

And, boy, does he!

Peter busts out of the gate with some of the most beautiful and powerful words in the whole New Testament of the Bible.

There is nothing weak in these opening words of his letter!  

Peter tells these elect exiles exactly what they most need to hear.

At the very same time, he doesn’t downplay, at all, what they are going through. There is nothing false or minimizing about their pain.

Peter just gives them a great and shining hope that more than overshadows their suffering. Hope for the hurting. 

He calls it in verse 3, “A Living Hope” and that’ll be the title of our message for today. “A Living Hope.” And there is no hope greater.

Let me read it to you. Verses 3 through 7 of 1 Peter chapter 1.

Amazingly, verses 3 through 12 are one long run-on sentence in the original Greek. Yes. Verses 3 through 12 are one sentence in the original! But I’m going to divide it up into two messages, this week and next, to try to get down into the details a little more. So I had to cut off somewhere, and I picked verse 7 as the cutoff for this week. 1 Peter 1:3-7.


Just reading it is encouraging, isn’t it?

Peter is so positive. He breaks out of the gate with this blessing to God. V.1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Before we get to talking about how hard it is, we need to start with blessing God for how great He is.

He is so worthy of our praise. "O For a Thousand Tongues to sing" His praise!

We bless His name because we have been so blessed by Him. Here’s what He did. Verse 1 again.

“In his great mercy [so He did something we could never do for ourselves] he [God the Father] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...”

Now, if I slow down too much, we could spend a whole month on these verses!

This is such good news.

“In his great mercy he has given us [Christians] new birth into a living hope...”

So Christians, you need encouragement?

Start here. You have been given a new birth.

Christians have been born again. That’s something that we can’t do for ourselves. You can’t give yourself birth. But God has done it for us.

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth...”

Where did Peter get that language from?

Well, he was present that night that Nicodemus came to see Jesus, wasn’t he? The original Nick at Nite? John chapter 3. Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

And that’s exactly what’s happened to every genuine Christian in history.

We have experienced a new birth.

Which is really good news because we really needed it!

We needed a new identity. We needed a new citizenship. We needed a new potentiality. We need a new slate. We needed a new us!

You needed a new you.

I needed a new me.

Because we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We might have been walking around, but we were spiritually dead. We were the original Walking Dead.

And we needed a new birth. And God gave it to us. HOW? (V.3 again)

“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...”

There is a lot of life here, isn’t there?

Jesus was also dead, physically dead, and God raised Him to life.

And that same resurrection power gives you and me new spiritual life, as well.

A new birth into...“a living hope.”

What wonderful words.

Now it’s important to understand what hope is in this context.

Biblical hope like this is not just a wishful feeling.

It is not just “I hope Heather Joy makes me a Texas Sheetcake this week” when Heather Joy has promised me no such thing.

That’s just a wishful feeling.

The only part of that that is hope is that it’s facing into the future.

Hope is always forward looking. Looking for something good in the future.

But this kind of hope is a sure thing.

This kind of hope is a certainty in the heart of something secure in the future.

This is like if Heather Joy promised me a Texas Sheetcake this week, and I know that she has all of the ingredients. (Which by the way, Sweetie, I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow if you want me to pick anything up for you!)

If Heather Joy told me that there would be a Texas Sheetcake some time this week, I would have this kind of hope. And it would be a living hope!

I love that word “living” modifying that word “hope.”

That shows just how powerful this hope is!

What would the opposite be? A dead hope. A cold hope. A stillborn hope. A lifeless hope. A hope that is not going anywhere.

But that’s not the kind of hope that God, in His mercy, has given us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! He has given us a living hope.

A dynamic hope.
A vital hope.
An active hope.
A vibrant hope.

This is a hope that does stuff. Right?

A living hope is a hope that does something.

It’s a hope that lives.
It’s a hope that changes your life.
It’s a hope that gives you life.

Anybody encouraged yet?

This hope is what is pictured in your baptism. Christian, when you went down into the water, you were picturing your death with Christ. And when you came back up out of the water, you were illustrating your new birth in union with His resurrection!

You were picturing your new birth into a vibrant living hope.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Now, how certain is this hope?

The degree to which this hope lives is the degree to which this hope is secure.

These exiles need to know just how much they can count on this living hope.

Because there aren’t that many things they know that they can count on.

Well, that’s where Peter goes next, and he goes all the way. He says that this hope is perfect and perfectly secure. Verse 4.

In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a life hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead “and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you...”

Now that “and” in verse 4 could also be translated, “that is.” I think that this “inheritance” in verse 4 is the “living hope” of verse 3.

A living hope THAT IS “an inheritance...”

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

An inheritance is a promise of a gift later, isn’t it? Normally, after someone dies.

But it’s something future (like a hope) that is something to look forward to. And it’s promised now for later.
 
The Greek word here was frequently used in the Greek Old Testament for the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. The promised land of the Abrahamic Covenant. 

But it’s not just land here. It’s every single promise that comes with belonging to Jesus!

That’s our inheritance. We don’t have it all yet, but it’s all promised.

And it’s all guaranteed!

Listen to what Peter says about it. Verse 4 again.

It’s “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade...”

That’s perfect in every way.

Name something else that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

Everything perishes.
Everything spoils.
Everything fades.

But not these promises!
Not this inheritance.

And this “kept in heaven for you.”

Exile, that’s your true homeland! And that’s where your inheritance is.

And it’s safe there. It’s perfect. And it’s safe. And it’s perfectly safe.

It’s like a treasure in the First Bank of Heaven guarded by the angels of God and safeguarded by God’s own omnipotent power beyond that. 

And who is going to break into that bank and steal your inheritance?

“Kept in heaven for you.”

Encouraged yet?

That sounds pretty safe and secure.

But I have a worry. Do you have the same worry?

I’m not worried that the inheritance is not safe in heaven.

I’m just worried that I might not make it there to the inheritance.

I’m a little worried because I’m suffering. And I’m worried that I might not make it.

I’m a little worried because I’m suffering. And what does that mean?

Does that mean that I’m doing it wrong?

That I’m lacking faith?

Does this suffering mean that God has abandoned me?

And that I’m not his?

Some of those TV preachers say that God wants me to be healthy and wealthy and successful and prosperous.

And if I’m not, then there is something wrong with me.

And maybe the inheritance is secure, but I am not going to make it.

And that’s why Peter wrote verse 5!

Peter says that the inheritance is being kept in heaven, and that you and I are being kept for the inheritance. Look at verse 5.

You “who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Do you see that? It’s not just the inheritance that is safe and secure from all alarms.

So are all of God the Father’s children!

We are “shielded” by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

It’s like we’re in a armed car from the First Bank of Heaven, protected by the same security force that guards the bank in heaven, and is safely delivering us through all of the foreign territory to get to the bank to claim our inheritance.

And that shield is in place “until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

That’s when Jesus Christ returns.

We have been saved when we were born again.
We are being saved as we’re being shielded.
And one day, we will be saved when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Anybody encouraged yet?!

“He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For My Savior loves me so

That is our hope.

And it is perfectly safe.

It is perfect. And it is safe. And it is perfectly safe.

Kept in heaven for us.

And we’re being kept for it.

BUT we are not being kept from suffering.

We’re being protected from apostasy. We’re being protected from Satan. We’re being protected from spiritual death.

But we’re not being protected from persecution.
We’re not being protected from suffering.
We’re not being protected from pain. V.6

“In this [living hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Peter knows.

Peter knows how much these Christians are hurting.

And he’s not minimizing their pain. He’s certainly not saying that it’s all their fault.

Or that they are doing something wrong. That’s why it hurts. No!

He’s saying that it’s normal to “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Including persecution.
Including disease.
Including breakdowns in relationships.

It’s normal. Suffering is normal. It is to be expected in this lifetime.

Jesus went through it. Why would we think we won’t?!

“All kinds of trials.”

They are not a punishment.
They are not a surprise (or at least they shouldn’t be).
And they are not proof of unbelief.

In fact, these trials have come through the Father’s hand to do the exact opposite! They have come to show that you and I are real. Look at verse 7.

“These [various trials] have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold [what a phrase!], which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

In turns out that God has a purpose for our pain.

There is divine reason for this fire.

Satan may want us to hurt. But God uses the pain to refine us.

It’s a smelting process.

He is refining us through the heat of suffering.

The impurities, the dross, are being removed and what is left is Christlikeness.

I think that’s encouraging.

It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It hurts.

It hurts.

But it helps to know that there is a purpose in the pain.

And that if it hurts, it doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong.

In fact, it probably means that I’m doing it right.

So, I grieve and lament, like we learned how to do in the Psalms.

But I also hope. I trust and I hope. And I rejoice.

Peter says that we have a living hope. And that means this hope lives and it does stuff. Living things grow and do stuff.

Here are three things I see that this hope does in you and me.

#1. IT MAKES US REJOICE.

The living hope makes us rejoice. Don’t miss the first words of verse 6 for all the pain and suffering!

“In this [living hope] you greatly rejoice[!]”

Yes, it hurts. But we have a hope that is greater than the pain. And we have every reason to be overjoyed, to exult, to dance.


Just spend some time today marinating in verses 3 through 5, and your heart will rejoice.

#2. IT HELPS US TRUST.

This living hope helps us trust God through all of the trials that we face.

That’s our part. God is supplying all of the power here. Our job is just to place our faith in Him.

Verse 5 mentions our faith. We are trusting in His work in us.

Verse 7 mentions our faith, and how precious it is. It’s of greater worth than gold!

So we need to exercise it. We need to trust in the Lord even in the face of terrible suffering.

And we can! Because of what God has done in the resurrection and in our new births.

What are you facing right now?

You can trust Him in that situation.

You can trust Him.

Hold on.

Hold on to Him.

It’s just going to be a “little while.”

Did you hear that in verse 6? These trials may come for a “little while.”

Now that little while might be 90 or 100 years.

But compared to eternity? Compared to an inheritance that can NEVER perish, NEVER spoil, and NEVER fade?

That’s just a second.

Hold on. Trust Him and hold onto Him.

Hold onto this living hope. Because...

#3. IT LEADS US TO GLORY.

Look one more time at verse 7. Look at the end result of trusting in this living hope!

This “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

You know, it doesn’t say who gets the praise, glory, and honor.

It’s certainly Jesus that does because He deserve it all.

But I think from the grammar here, that we get to share in it, somehow, someway.

We are so vitally connected to Him that we get to somehow, someway enjoy the praise, glory, and honor with Him when Jesus comes again.

This living hope leads us to glory!

The enjoyment of His glory forever and ever and ever!

How’s that for encouraging?!


***

Previous Messages in This Series


Sunday, August 29, 2021

“Elect Exiles” [Matt's Messages]

“Elect Exiles”

Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 29, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Your Bible might just naturally open to the Psalms. For a year now, we’ve been bouncing around the Songbook in the center of our Bibles, studying the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. So it might be a little strange to go back to studying a letter in the New Testament. Letters are written differently than songs! And you read them differently, as well.

But I thought as we started a new school year, it was probably a good time to change over what we are focusing upon in God’s Word.

I don’t expect to spend a full year in 1 Peter like we did in Psalms, but it is worthy of our focus and attention today.

I prayed a lot about and thought a lot about what to study next, and I finally landed on 1 Peter. I believe 1 Peter speaks to the church in our current moment in ways that we need to hear. Some encouraging and some challenging. I hope to both encourage and challenge us from 1 Peter every single Sunday of this sermon series.

I actually have preached through 1 Peter one time before for this church. It was exactly 20 years ago. Strangely enough, it was right about the same time the US military invaded Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Twenty eventful years have now gone by, and I believe that the message of God’s Word in 1 Peter is even more relevant for us today, if that’s possible.

We’re only going to make it through the first two verses this morning, but you will see that there is a full spiritual meal in just these two verses.

If this was an email, we wouldn’t be getting very far past the headings at the top:

Who wrote it.
To whom it was written.
And a basic Christian greeting.

But there is so much in here!

Let me read these two verses to you, and then we’ll get into the details together. I’ll be reading today from the 2011 update of the New International Version. And, you’ll notice the title of this message is found in two e-words right next to each other in verse 1: “Elect Exiles.”

Those are two very important words that tell us who we are and where we are. 

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”


Two weeks ago, I did NOT get lost in New York City.

It would have been easy to get lost in New York City. Have you ever been there?

That’s a big city with a lot of streets and a lot of people and a lot of big tall buildings.

My wife and son and my brother’s family went up to the top of Rockefeller Center. “The Top of the Rock.” I’m not a big one for heights, so I myself stayed down on the street at the bottom of “The Rock” and went for a walk. I was supposed to try to find a place for us to eat lunch.

And did I get lost? No, I did not. (Though maybe it would have been a better story!)

Why I didn’t I get lost? Because I had a phone with me with GPS and Google Maps.

And I had my bluetooth earpiece in, and it actually gave me directions of where to go. “Turn left on 5th Avenue. Turn right on Broadway.” That sort of thing.

If I looked at the little screen, there was actually a little moving dot on a map that told me, “You are here.”

So I did NOT get lost.

Now, imagine waking up on the street somewhere in New York City with NO phone in your hand, and not only do you not know WHERE you are, you don’t remember WHO you are.

Think about how disorienting that would be.

No wallet either. No identification. And no trustworthy memories.

You don’t know WHERE you are, and you have forgotten WHO you are.

And so you try to piece it all together. 

And you ask other people on the street who you are.

And you ask some people on the street where you are.

And they begin to look at you funny. And some of them take advantage of you and tell you the wrong things. Just imagine. How disorienting!

I think that life itself can be like that. Even for Christians. We can lose our bearings. We can lose our orientation. We can lose track of where we are and even who we are–which will cause us no end of problems.

So the Apostle Peter’s first letter is a wonderful gift to us because it is a Word from God that tells us WHO WE ARE, WHERE WE ARE, and EVEN WHOSE WE ARE and therefore HOW TO LIVE.

1 Peter is wonderfully orienting.

It’s like that moving map on your phone. 

This is you, and this is where you are, and here’s what to do next.

Now, not everything Peter tell us is fun and exciting. I don’t like everything that Peter tells me about myself or where I am or what to do next!

There is a lot in here, for example, about suffering. I don’t want to suffer, but Peter says that suffering is normal for followers of Jesus. “Don’t be surprised.”

And there is a lot of other stuff in here that I don’t necessarily feel much like doing most of the time.

But at least I’m not lost.

Because I read 1 Peter, I know who I am and where I am and how to live accordingly.

Does that sound good?

I hope so. Let’s get into 1 Peter, and I’ll try to show you what I mean.

The letter begins by identifying the author. Verse 1.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ...”

It’s from Rocky himself. The Apostle who was named Simon that Jesus renamed “Peter,” the original “Rock.”

Remember him from our study of the Gospel of Matthew? Peter’s probably most people’s favorite disciple from the gospels because he’s so loud and forward and relatable, right? You’ve gotta love Peter. 

We loved him so much, we named one our sons after him!

Well, this Peter is all growed-up now. And he is not just a disciple. He is an apostle, an authorized representative speaking authoritatively for Jesus Christ Himself.

This is a Word from God. It is not just Peter’s opinion. This is a Word from God that tells us who we are and where we are and how to live accordingly.

The very next words in verse 1, tell us not just who was to get this letter, but WHO WE ARE and WHERE WE ARE. V.1 again.

“To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Peter wrote this letter to God’s elect exiles.

To be “elect” means to be chosen. When you have an election, you are choosing someone for something.

And these precious people to whom Peter was writing were God’s elect. People whom God had chosen.

He’s going to say some more about that in verse 2. It’s a glorious and comforting truth. It is incredibly orienting to know yourself as in God’s chosen people. God’s elect.

It’s not as encouraging, perhaps, to see yourself as an exile.

To see yourself as displaced and outside of your homeland.

Peter says that he is writing to these chosen people who are exiles “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Those are places in modern day Turkey.

You might want to look at a map in the back of your Bible this afternoon and find “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Those were the names of regions in what we call “Asia Minor.” Not Asia as in China and over there on the Pacific. This is Asia Minor, where modern day Turkey is. Northern and Western Turkey. 

And these 5 Roman provinces are kind of in a circle on the map. Perhaps the circle in which the letter would have been circulated as it made its way to the churches? Or maybe just a circle in the mental map in Peter’s mind as he thinks about where he wants this letter to land.

There were Jews in all of those places in the first century. All of those places were mentioned as sending locations for Jews present on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Perhaps those people got saved that day and went back to their homes with the gospel and planted littler churches. We call the dispersement of Jews in the world the “diaspora” which is the Greek word here behind the NIV’s “scattered.” So these could have been Jewish Christians scattered among the Roman provinces.

Or it could have just been Gentile Christians scattered in those same places maybe even scattered out from Rome where Peter probably was when he wrote this. We don’t know for certain.

We do know for certain that Peter wanted them to think about themselves as exiles.

Or if you have the 1984 New International Version, as “strangers in the world.”

Now, the believers that Peter was writing to might have been literal exiles living outside their true homeland, but I’m certain that Peter was making a point not just about their location on the map, but their own self-identity as followers of Christ.

Because he’s going to hit this idea more in this letter. In verse 17, he’s going to call them to live their lives as strangers, as foreigners. And what did we see in our brand new memory verse this morning? Peter urges them “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires...” Same word “exiles.”

This is their Christian identity. They are elect, and they are exiles.

And so are you and I.

To God’s elect, exiles in Lanse, Grassflat, Drifting, Winburne, Kylertown, Allport, and Morrisdale. Elect exiles.

What does that mean? Especially, practically speaking. What does that mean for us?

Let me give you some shorthand.

#1. ELECT.

That means that you are very loved. You are very loved.

Here’s the other one:

#2. EXILE. 

That means that you are very displaced. You are very displaced.

Let me talk a little bit more about that second one first because it’s the one that’s not so pleasant.

To be an “exile,” like this verse says, means that you are very displaced.

You are living somewhere that is not your homeland.

It’s your home at this point, but it’s not your homeland.

The NET Bible has "to those temporarily residing" and a footnote saying, “to those living as resident foreigners." That's really helpful. (NOTE: I had mistakenly quoted this as being the CSB in the live version and video version. CSB actually has "living as exiles.")

So you are not a tourist. You have come to live somewhere, but it’s not your homeland. It’s not your heartland. You are not a citizen of this place even though right now it is your temporary home.

Do you get the picture?

My mind goes to these precious Afghan refugees that have gotten on a plane and been shipped to somewhere else, perhaps Qatar and then taken through the US State Department’s rigorous vetting process, and then brought to the US. Perhaps they get off a plane in Sacramento, California where a lot of Afghan refugees have been resettled by Christian groups like World Relief that Heather and I support [the closest WR regional office is in Rochester].

And these precious people made in the image of God and coming from a war-torn homeland have to adjust to a completely different place, a different language, a different way of life, while probably their hearts are longing and worried about what is going on back “home.”

They are living in a home but not their “home.”

That’s how you and I are supposed to live as followers of Jesus Christ in this world.

This world is not your home.

You are not at home.

Do you feel that? Do you know that? Sometimes I think we need reminded.

I think that Christians often can lose their bearings and begin to believe that this world is their home. And this culture is their culture. And this country is their country. And this particular political party is their political party. This sports team is their sports team. This biological natural family is their family.

And we get too comfortable.

We begin to take on the values of this world, this culture, this country, this political party, this sports team, this natural family. We begin to look like and talk like and act just like the rest of the people in the world.

And we begin to find and place our identity in things of this world instead of in Christ. We make our major identity markers our culture, our country, our party, our sports team, our family, or whatever, our brand (Marvel or DC!).

But those are not our home.

America is not our home if we are Christians.

We are just “resident foreigners” wherever we are.

Now in the case of the Afghans, some of them will eventually get to American Citizenship which for them will be a wonderful thing. Because their homeland is not heavenly (right now), and it’s okay and even good for them to become true citizens of the new place they live. 

But that’s not our case. We are supposed to think of ourselves not as refugees but missionaries. Not as citizens but as ambassadors of our true homeland.

Does that make sense? Do you see what I’m saying?

We are to see to ourselves as very displaced. Exiles. Continually temporary resident  foreigners.

A year ago, we saw the same basic idea pop up in Philippians chapter 3. Remember “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...” He is our king.

Now, we do live here in America. And as “resident foreigners,” so to speak, we are called to live for the good of our current home even if it’s not our true homeland.

We’re going to see that as we go further into 1 Peter. We are, in fact, supposed to be some of the best “citizens” that really-ultimately-non-citizens of a place can be! Paul was a Roman citizen himself. The one who said that our citizenship is in heaven.

But we are not supposed to get too comfortable. We are not allowed to make it our identity. Citizens are not what we are. We are exiles.

And...the world will make sure that if we’re doing it right, we can’t get too comfortable!

In fact, we will suffer.

These Christians were suffering, and we should prepare ourselves to suffer, too.

Because we are God’s exiles. We are very displaced. That’s where we are on the map. We are not at home.

But that’s okay. Because we are also God’s elect. We are very loved.

That’s who we are. We are very loved.

You are very loved.

Do you know that? Do you feel that?

You are very very loved.

Peter wants you to know not just WHERE you are on the map (not home), but WHO are you and WHOSE you are.

You are God’s elect.

Look at verse 2 to see just some of what that means!

Peter builds off of the words “elect” and “exile” to show in what ways we are elect and in what manner we are exiled. Look at verse 2.

Elect exiles “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

Wow. Just wow.

Do you see how the entire Trinity is at work here?

You are loved by the Triune God. The Father, the Spirit, the Son.

You have been “chosen [elected] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

Here’s how loved you are. God the Father picked you.

You are chosen.
You are wanted.
You are known.
You are loved.

Now, some people have a hard time with the doctrine of election. That, ultimately, God does the choosing.


But most of the time when the doctrine of election shows up in the Bible, it is not a problem to be solved but a glorious truth to revel in!

You are chosen.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It didn’t just happen. God didn’t just say one, “Oh my. Where did that one come from? How did she get in here?”

No, God knew beforehand, before you were ever born, that He was going to save you!

He placed His love on you on purpose. It’s no accident.

And you didn’t have to take the initiative.

The Father chose you beforehand for adoption.

He is not just God the Father. He is your Father God!

So, it’s okay to live in exile. Because your Father[!] knows where you live, and He’s there, too.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be away from home with this Father than somewhere I feel completely comfortable but apart from this Father!

And not just the Father, but the Spirit. Verse 2, elect exiles “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

“Sanctifying” is just a big word that means to be set apart. It’s another word for “being made holy.” Holy-fying something.

When we became Christians, we were set apart, consecrated by the Holy Spirit and now are being set apart, being made holy by that same Holy Spirit.

In other words, we are chosen to be different.

That’s going to be one of the major themes of this book.

You and I have been saved to live holy lives, different from the world around us.

That’s part of what it means to think of ourselves as exiles, as resident foreigners.

This world is not my home. I’m in it, but I’m not of it.

I’m American, but I’m not American.
I’m a resident of Lanse, but I’m not a Lanse-ien.
I’m a Mitchell, but I’m not a Mitchell.

Not when any of those things conflict in any way with my ultimate allegiance, my true homeland.

I’m not ultimately an American. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Lanse-ien. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Mitchell. I’m a Christian.

I’m different. I’m a resident foreigner. I’m an exile.

And I’m loved so much by God that His Spirit is making me holy like Him!

You are loved by the Triune God.

You are elect exiles, “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.”

We were chosen not just to spend eternity with Jesus, but to obey Jesus.

To come to faith in Him and follow Him with our very lives.

Have you done that? Have you chosen to follow Jesus?

Are you choosing to follow Jesus? Are you obeying Him?

Does your life look distinctly different from the non-Christians around you?

You are loved by the Triune God.

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

I learned that line 25 years ago, and it’s so true!

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

You have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and “sprinkling by his blood.”

THAT’s how much you are loved! You are very very loved.

Jesus Christ’s blood seals the deal. It ratifies the New Covenant (see Exodus 34:3-8).

I think Peter is alluding to the ratification of the Old Covenant in Exodus 34 where there was a sprinkling of blood. You might want to read that this afternoon.

And Peter is saying that Jesus’ blood ratifies the New Covenant and saves us from our sins. It affects our adoption into the Father’s family and our consecration by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ.

That’s how much we are loved! You may be very displaced. But that’s okay because you are very loved. 

That’s what it means to be God’s elect.
It means that Jesus shed His blood for us.

“Redeemed how I love to proclaim it! / Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!”

Ok. Do you know where you are right now?
Do you know who you are right now?
Do you know whose you are right now?

You are God’s elect exiles.

And here’s what happens when you are. Verse 2.

The words here are so much more than a simple greeting: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

That’s what I want for me.
That’s what I want for you.
That’s what I want for Lanse Free Church in the Fall of 2021.

And that’s what I pray we will find as we study 1 Peter together in the weeks to come.

Grace and peace.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Fortifying Truth - Psalms

A sermon series on a selection of Psalms preached during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Fall 2020 to Summer 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124
40. "Shout for Joy to the LORD, All the Earth" - Psalm 100
41. "You Have Raised A Banner" - Psalm 60
42. "Unless the LORD Builds the House" - Psalm 124
43. "Praise Be To The LORD My Rock" - Psalm 144
44. "Consider the Great Love of the LORD." - Psalm 107
45. "Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD" - Psalm 150


Screenshots from Video Versions
Of Psalm Series During Winter 2021

Sunday, August 22, 2021

“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD” Psalm 150 [Matt's Messages]

“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the LORD”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 22, 2021 :: Psalm 150

For the whole last year we have been studying a different psalm each Sunday, and bouncing all over the Psalter. And we’ve seen that the Psalms are songs, and that there are a variety of different kinds of Psalms with different moods and themes and keys. The Psalms aren’t just happy or joyful. Many of them are sad and mournful and full of lament. Some are full of questions. Some are full of wisdom. Some are long. Some are short. Some tell a story. Many are prayers directly to God but sometimes they are songs that we sing to one another, to encourage or to challenge one another.

But there is one key theme that runs straight through the book and gains steam as it gets closer to the end, and that the theme of praise. The Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehillim” which can be literally translated, “Praises.” The Book of Praises.

We’ve mentioned that the 150 psalms are divided into 5 big books of Psalms, and it turns out that each of the books ends with a praise. Psalm 41:13, Psalm 72:19, Psalm 89:52, Psalm 106:48, and then our Psalm for today, Psalm 150. And it’s the whole thing, not the just the last verse.

In fact, the last 5 Psalms–Psalm 146, 147, 148, 149, and 150–are each bookended,  beginning and ending–with the phrase, “Praise the LORD.”

Do you know what the Hebrew is for that?

“Hallelujah”

“Praise Ya!” Short for “Praise Yahweh.”

“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”

“Praise the LORD!”

And so the very last Psalm cranks that to 11! It’s very “Psalm-y” in that respect.

I count 13 times in just 6 verses that the psalmist calls everybody everywhere to praise God and is doing so himself at the very same time!

Have I ever mentioned that the ancient Hebrews liked to repeat themselves?
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”
“Hallelujah”

Praise the LORD!

This is a song to end the book of songs calling for more songs of praise.

Today, I want complete our series on the Psalms and then move on next week to a book in the New Testament since it’s been a year.

But I urge you to never move on from the Psalms in your own life.

We may move on and closely study other parts of the Bible on Sunday mornings, but the Psalms are good for all of life. They give us a prayer language and a worship language no matter what is going on in our lives, good or bad.

And one of the things they teach us to do is to praise the LORD.

Verse 6, the very last verse of the Psalter says this, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

And so that’s our title for our very last message in this series putting a cap on the book of Psalms with the last Psalm, Psalm 150.


We start in verse 1 where the songwriter begins his song with a call to praise the LORD wherever you are. Psalm 150, verse 1.

“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.”

That’s three times in just one verse.

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD. Praise God!

#1. PRAISE THE LORD WHEREVER YOU ARE.

Verse 1 is all about location. “Praise God in his sanctuary.”

For the ancient Hebrews, that was the temple in Jerusalem, or the tabernacle. 

For you and me, the closest thing is the gathering of the church. Not a church building  but a church family gathering together to praise the LORD.

In other words, worship is essential!

In times of crisis and disease, we may have to find creative ways of doing it, but worship is absolutely essential.

The psalms cry out for us to do it. “Praise God in his sanctuary!”

And more than that. “Praise Him in his mighty heavens.” Literally, “In the expanse of his power.”

And when you put the two parts of the first line together, you’ve got worship in God’s earthly temple and worship in God’s heavenly temple, and that means worship of God anywhere and everywhere!

The stars in the sky and the sun in the sky stretch out there to lead us to worship.

The very first psalm we studied a year ago was Psalm 8 in which King David talks about the heavens as God’s fingerwork, His handiwork, and it calls us to praise Him. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Do you praise God wherever you are?

Secondly, do you praise God for what He does and Who He is? Listen to verse 2.

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

Here the idea is not just location but reason. It’s the why we praise Him.

#2. PRAISE THE LORD FOR WHAT HE DOES AND WHO HE IS.
 
The psalmist doesn’t just say that we ought praise God, but gives us good reasons to do so. And it’s like summary of all of the good reasons that we’ve seen for the last year.

Number one, what he does and number two, just who He is. V.2 again.

“Praise him for his acts of power...”

What are those?

Well, that’s about everything God does.

Creation, Redemption, Restoration.

Whenever I go away on vacation, I am led to worship just thinking about how big and awesome God is.

When we are in Cook Forest (you knew there would be a Cook Forest story, right?), I look up at the Milky Way, and I’m amazed that God made all of that in His mighty heavens.

But I also am amazed when I sit by the river and watch the water flow by.

And think God, didn’t just make all of this, but He knows the location of every fish in this river. Every duck, every water spider, every biting fly! Every bald eagle or hawk swooping overhead.

And those things are happening right now on the Clarion River. And He knows them all. I just watch them for a few hours for a week while eating my ice-cream on vacation. God sees all of them. And not just on that river but every river. And every ocean.

And then we went to New York City and saw all of the buildings and all of the vehicles and all of the people. On the subway, in the streets, on the river, at the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island.

And He knows and see all of them. Not just when I am there, but right now. And not just there but everywhere. Including Haiti and Afghanistan and Tokyo and Lanse, Pennsylvania.

It’s good for me to go away and think about how big God is!

Praise Him for His acts of power.

And not just for His creation and His omniscience, His knowledge of His creation, but also His mighty acts of redemption.

What happened on the Cross.

And what happened at the resurrection when Jesus Christ came back from the dead.

Praise Him for His acts of power.

“Praise him for his surpassing greatness.”

I love that! That’s not just praising God for what He does, but just simply praising God for Who He is.

He deserves it.
God deserves this praise.

I heard Ira Glass recently on This American Life on the radio wondering why God needs all of this praise. “What does God get out of it?” he was asking.

Because all of these psalms demand our praise. Why does God need our praise so much.

Of course, the answer is that God does not need our praise. He just deserves it.

When other people call us to praise them, they are needy and it shows.

But we’re the needy people, and what need is a God like this who does things like this and is surpassingly great like this.

And it’s we who need this praise! We NEED to praise Him!

Because He is worthy.

Hallelujah!

If verse 1 says WHERE to praise Him and verse 2 say WHY to praise Him, verses 3,4, and 5 tell us HOW to praise Him.

And that is with everything in us. Verse 3.

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”

It’s the whole orchestra, isn’t it?!

It’s the whole band.

It’s the whole kit and kaboodle.

The psalmist calls for every kind of musical instrument to be broken out, dusted off, and put to use. Wind instruments, string instruments, percussion instruments.

They might have been a little different from our modern versions. The trumpet was made from a rams horn. The harp and lyre were like a big string instrument and a smaller one. Kind of like our harp or big standing bass guitar and then the lyre was like our guitars or mandolin or even a banjo. Though I don’t think they’ll be any banjos in heaven. (Just kidding!)

Why do you think the psalmist writes a song about how many instruments should be used to praise God?

I think he’s saying that we need to give it everything we’ve got!

Music, yes. Do it with excellence. 

But I also think it means noise.

This psalm leads me to believe that God wants us to get loud. Loud and strong.

To worship with noise. To pull out all of the stops. To throw in the kitchen sink.

To give it everything you’ve got.

#3. PRAISE THE LORD WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE.

I mean, he says to DANCE here!

When was the last time you danced in worship?

I’m not saying that we need to draw attention to ourselves. I’m saying that we need to throw our whole selves into it.

When was the last time you gave your all in worship?

If the LORD is worthy of all our worship, why wouldn’t we give Him all of our worship?

Praise the LORD with everything you’ve got.

And while you still can. That’s verse 6.

We’ve seen WHERE to praise the LORD, WHY to praise the LORD, HOW to praise the LORD, and the very last verse says WHO should praise the LORD.

And it’s everybody who still can. Verse 6.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

That’s everybody. That’s you and me. That’s every living creature to the degree that they can according to their sentience. 

We are called not just to worship God with our constructed instruments but with the greatest musical instruments every constructed, the human voice.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

Hallelujah!

I think that the reference to breath there is twofold. One is that it is about using our breath to praise God.

To lift our voices. To say, “Praise God!” And use our voices to sing, “Praise God!”

But I also think there is a warning there to praise God while you still can.

While you have breath.

Breathing is a gift, and it’s a fleeting one. [As we found out with our brother Pat Quick this last week.]

Take a breath right now.

That was a gift.

You aren’t promised your next one.

But you are called to use your next one to praise the LORD.

#4. PRAISE THE LORD WHILE YOU HAVE BREATH.

Don’t miss an opportunity.

Especially out of concern of what other people might think.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Praise God wherever you are.
Praise God for what He does and just Who He is.
Praise God with all you’ve got.
Praise God while you still can.

Hallelujah!

Listen to the whole thing:

“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 to Summer 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124
40. "Shout for Joy to the LORD, All the Earth" - Psalm 100
41. "You Have Raised A Banner" - Psalm 60
42. "Unless the LORD Builds the House" - Psalm 124
43. "Praise Be To The LORD My Rock" - Psalm 144
44. "Consider the Great Love of the LORD." - Psalm 107