Monday, January 21, 2008

The Benefit of building on the Sovereign, Saving Grace of our Triune God...

So, I decided to post a bit of the message I heard yesterday, preached by Don Shorey. He introduced a series and a general plan for preaching that would begin with an in-depth study of 1 Peter. Anyway, there was a certain section of the message that, to me, was very encouraging. So, I listened to it again so that I could transcribe a portion of it, as the messages are not yet available online. 

"I believe great benefit will arise from the in-depth study of 1 Peter, because it builds from the beginning on the Sovereign and saving grace of our Triune God. 
If you try and go through a letter like this and stop at the what to do parts and start trying to learn the what to do parts you would very quickly, maybe see your life change in some way just by behaviour change, but if you do that without stopping to step back and look at the way a letter like this is written you will miss the point. You will miss the point of the Gospel and you will miss what will really transform your life. 
From the beginning of this letter the truth Peter wants to bring into these people's lives - Yes he does want to see their lives transformed, yes he does want to see them grow into the image of Christ, yes he does want to see them be faithful to God even in difficult circumstances, but this is not a manual for behaviour change. It is a display of the unfolding effect of the Gospel in Your lives and so from the very beginning of the letter, it is rooted not just in the gospel in general, but in God's nature to save. In His Sovereign saving activity! 
Peter even chooses in these very first verses to make clear that the whole of God, that triune nature, that we don't comprehend or grasp, but we believe and see the richness of - the whole of God is occupied in our salvation, through the Gospel, Peter realizes that's what's going to redefine these people's, that's what's going to transform them in their difficult circumstances, and so verse 2, right in his greeting, before he's even getting to the substance, so to speak, of the letter, he says of them, You are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. 

For the moment I want us to see the personalness of God's pursuit of us...Peter reminds these people that the WHOLE of God is leaning towards them, he reminds them that God the Father, God the Spirit and God the Son have set their heart towards them. Peter in essence says, You are sought by the Father, He pursued you, He desired you before you were even born.

People get all caught up between the doctrinal challenges of Calvinism and Armenianism, you know the essence of  Reformed theology that we would affirm - the essence is simply this - it's all about God and his desire to pursue us inexplicably by His grace. 
In a sense that's all it is - it's learning that not only is God gracious but loves His grace and wants to be known for His grace more than He wants to be known for anything else. 
And so He has set out from before time, perfectly designed, so He could pour out His Grace upon us- 

(Don quotes a bit of an old hymn)
I sought the Lord,  and afterward I knew He moved my soul, to seek Him seeking me, it was not I that found O Saviour true, no I was found of thee.....

-that reminder of God though by the mercy of God, He called us to run after Him, it was because he had been running after us. That's important, that's not just cold doctrine, that's not just historic theology - it defines our relationship with God.

We are sought by the Father, but we are also brought by the Holy Spirit, don't get confused by that word sanctification - we use it to talk about Christian change and transformation, that's not generally the New Testament use of the term. The NT use of the term sanctify, or to set apart speaks more to that initial work of Spirit regeneration. He sanctified us, he set us apart at that time. That's why Hebrews can say we are fully sanctified already - that doesn't fit the way we usually talk about progressive sanctification, but it is a complete work of setting apart, of making us holy as unto the Lord. It is that active, effective call by the Spirit, that calls us all, that sets us all apart. We will ALWAYS be apart, we will ALWAYS be that daughter or that son of God- that we have been appointed by His mercy to be. And so this statement, though it may not seem like it at first glance is a statement about the Father who wanted us, and the Spirit who brought us to Him, the Spirit who made it happen, who regenerated, who brought life ANEW in us, who called us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. 

Peter summarizes the Gospel so beautifully by drawing the attention toward the real players - The Father, The Spirit and the Son of God Himself - so that we might feel the full weight of His affection & His Grace and His initiative towards us. He sets that out at the beginning of this letter. He sets it out while he's still saying "Hi". He hasn't even gotten to the main text yet, He's already sharing how God has pursued us.
This letter is saturated with the Gospel of God's great Grace. It is from beginning to end occupied, yes with seeing our lives changed and transformed by the richness of God's grace being known and loved and applied in our lives.

We will OFTEN speak more of that!! "

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