Grow Together

Have you ever met a hypocritical Christian? I have. Truth be known, I am one.

Let’s admit it. Us Christians are a community of hypocrites. We aren’t perfect. Far from it. We have an lofty standard God wants us to meet—holiness. That’s a really high bar. We sincerely want to meet that standard, but we fall short like a pole-vaulter trying to jump over Golden Gate Bridge. We sometimes act like we can make it on our own, but we often mask the truth that we struggle to be holy from our fellow Christians.

Why do we hide when we all struggle? Wouldn’t it be better if we admitted our mutual struggle and banded together to grow together? Of course! And Peter agrees too. He calls us to brotherly love from a pure heart and in the processes your display the good news to others around you (1:22-23).

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” – 1 Peter 1:22-23, ESV

The way we fight hypocrisy is through abiding in the Word of God. The Word of God is our mighty weapon against slaying hypocrisy.

The Word of God is powerful because it is the Word is Truth.

Hypocrisy is the opposite of truth. Hypocrisy lives a lie and masks the truth. When we read the Word it reads us. We see who we really are and what we need to become. While not easy to swallow it is the truth.

Jesus was the Word in the flesh—the living Truth—to set us free from sin and hypocrisy. If you look at the first Jesus followers they were a mess. Peter was the biggest mess of them all, yet Jesus loves to redeem messes. A hypocrite must first admit, “I am a mess. I am not what I am, but I want to be as He is. Help me to love truth. I love You and I want to love others too.”

The Word is living and enduring.

There is no other book like the Bible on earth. It is the very words of God. It’s alive. The Spirit of God still gives life through it. While man and generation come and go (1:24-25; cf. Isaiah 40:6-8), the Word of God stands the test of time impacting generation after generation. If the Word has the power to change so many lives he has power to change my life too, even hypocrisy.

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1:24-25

The Word is good and our source of growth.

The Word of God is like milk to a baby (2:2-3). A new Christian craves the Word. He can’t get enough. It is life-giving. No Christian is too old or mature to feast on the Word or drink its spiritual milk. It is the Word that gives him motivation and power to fight the hypocrisy he struggles to overcome (2:1). Remind one another of the tasty goodness therein and obey it.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3

Christianity isn’t a solo or personal walk. It is a arduous journey we take together with other Christians. There are many personal aspects to the journey like our salvation and daily choices, but it’s in those parts that walk with one another our faith is accentuated and amplified. We grow as Christians by growing together. We fight hypocrisy by walking in Truth together.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is hypocrisy? How is hypocrisy a temptation? What are some ways that Christians struggle with hypocrisy?
  • What are the implications of a life filled with 1 Peter 2:1?
  • How does a vulnerable and open faith within the church help us overcome hypocrisy?
  • What issues of hypocrisy do we need to deal with as a community?
  • How are you banding together with your brothers and sisters as you fight hypocrisy in your own life?
  • What is the purpose of loving one another? (see John 17) Why is love so important to Christianity? Where does true love come from? (1 John 4:8)
  • How does abiding in the Word of God help us to love one another? (see Psalm 34)
  • How can we encourage one another to renew a longing for “spiritual milk”?
  • How does Isaiah 40:6-8 speak to the issue of our brevity and the Words eternality? Why is this an important truth to dwell on as we encourage one another?
  • How does the way we treat other Christians (or non-Christians) reflect on our faith in Christ? How is the gospel preached in relationships?
  • How has your faith in Jesus changed the way you relate to people? Are there any attitudes you need to repent of?
  • What opportunities do you have to love one another in your community?
  • What does it mean that God is good? What ways in the Bible do you see that God is good? What are some ways God has been good to you or your family?
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breaking news

Have you ever received any breaking news? The kind of news that startles you for a moment and your life is never the same. Maybe you received news that your lover has just broken off the relationship, your father passed away suddenly, you failed the test, you are pregnant, you lost your job, or you watch a tragedy unfold on the breaking news today.

This is not the kind of news we want to hear, but inevitably we will all here some bad breaking news. How do you normal respond to bad news? Brace yourself; I have some more bad news for you. Ready? You are going to die. 100% of people who are born into this world will one day die. Do you know where will you go when you die? The answer to this question might be even worse news to you. The thought of death and the perplexity of an afterlife cause many to be fearful or anxious.

Not all breaking news is bad news. I have some wonderful breaking news for you: the gospel. What is the gospel, you ask? The gospel is good news. It is earth shattering, life-altering breaking news. When I am confronted with the gospel I see myself for who I really am and the way I respond to the gospel can have eternal ramifications.

The Gospel is the center of Christianity. Without a right understanding and application of the gospel you do not have a true picture of Christianity. The gospel is what makes Christianity distinct and exclusive from other faith-based systems. The gospel to Christianity is like a wrench to a mechanic or a flower to a florist. The mechanic does not sit around and ponder, “What is this wrench used for?” Nor does a florist wonder, “What is a bouquet of roses?” Without the gospel one does not understand the core of Christianity.

How good a grip do you have on the gospel? What is the good news that Christians blaa-blaa-blaa about? What is so good about good news anyway? We do know what the gospel is not, or at least what the gospel is not alone.

  • The gospel is not Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not Jesus death, burial and resurrection alone.
  • The gospel is not a belief in Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not being forgiven of my sins alone.
  • The gospel is not God loves you alone.
  • The gospel is not God has a special plan for you alone.
  • The gospel is not changing my life to be a better [loving] person alone.

The gospel is a belief that the Bible is absolutely true: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God. The gospel is not only something I believe in for a moment that will change my life eternally, but its also the means for me to live righteously all throughout my life.

How do I know this is the gospel? How do I know this gospel is true? How do I know this gospel is for me? Could it be as simple as Bible tells me so? YES. It comes down to whether I believe God wrote a book and that this book is Truth.

How can I know that the Bible is absolute truth and authoritative? Is the Bible reliable? Other than the Bible we have three sources of so-called reliable truth. The first source of truth we have is tradition. Tradition tells us what has be true passed down from generation to generation. Some say tradition is not reliable because traditions change or generations might distort the truth to another generation. A second source of truth is reason. Reason uses mans thinking to proven or make understandable what is true. Does everybody agree on what is true? Reason often leads to skepticism and more questions rather than understanding truth. A third source of truth is experience. Some measure truth by what I can seems or feels right. What we know from experience is the experience is not a good measurement for truth. Tradition, reason, and experiences fail us more often then not. What is your standard of authority? Is it reliable? Are you sure?

So where can we find truth? I believe that God authored His Word and spoke these words to called men who recorded them in what we know as the Bible. I also believe since God is perfect and holy, the Bible is infallible and authoritative [2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 18:30]. Therefore, the overall plan of salvation for sinful men that God lays out through His Word is absolutely true.

In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul writes about the Gospel. He gives a concise and clear explanation of God’s purposes in Christ. He writes this letter to people who would consider themselves Christians, but Paul wants to make sure they really do understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” [Romans 1:16]

If Paul were alive today he would share the gospel with his mailman, garbage man, X-Box buddies, bowling league, and bullies at work or school. We know this because he was unashamed of the gospel in his time when Christians were killed for their faith. He was beaten, bullied and put into jail, but this did not stop him from sharing the gospel with the prison guards. The gospel was life to Paul.

What is the Gospel according to the Bible?

First, I am responsible to God. I am responsible to God because He is my Creator and Sustainer. Without God I would not be breathing. Since He is Creator He has say so over His creation. He did not just create you and leave you alone. He created you for fellowship with Him. You cannot have fellowship with a God who is far off playing Parcheesi in another planetary system. The God of the Bible says He is with us and He has made His presence know quite plainly.

ROMANS 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God is visible through His creation. When I look at Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and the myriads of stars in the summer sky I am left to ponder: Could not have been created by mere chance? Could there be a greater power behind this? God says we are without excuse. It is as if He has written in the clouds, “Look around you, I am with you.” Since God is your Creator, He owns you. On that basis alone you are obligated to obey Him. Yet that is not always what happens, which brings us to the next point.

Second, I have rebelled against God. Rather than obeying our Creator and thanking Him we spit in His face and in a sense tell Him by our words and actions we do not think He is doing a good job running this world. Therefore we sin against God.

ROMANS 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Have you ever blamed you messes on someone else? That is exactly what we do to God. We say to God, “If you really loved me and if you were really good, my life would not be like this!” Thus we pretend to be God and create our own truth system that makes us feel good. When we replace God we think we are wise, but God says this is foolish. You cannot play pretend god for long because God is jealous and wants to be our King and True Vine. Those who do not praise God will be rejected from His kingdom and cut off as dead branches.

Since, God is Creator, He has the right to judge His creation [cf. Romans 2:1-5]. My sin condemns me to death and eternal separation from my God. This is bad news. Do you see how bad your sin really is? Sin is life altering. Yet in the shadow of this bad news there is breaking news that shines as a beacon of light to our rescue.

Third, I can be redeemed by the blood of God’s Son who died and resurrected for the sins of humanity. What is God’s solution to our sin problem? God took action. Since God is a good and loving Creator He made a way for His creation to be forgiven—by faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

ROMANS 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God sends Christ to earth as visible a message: “My creation, you are not okay. You are not as good as you think you are. In fact, you are wicked. You need Me. You need My help. I have come to the rescue. Repent of your sin and follow Christ.” Now this is good news!

Fourth, I must respond to the gospel. My response is to turn from my sin and believe Christ. It’s an all-in-Jesus-is-my-King choice. There is no turning back. When we give our life over to God we are saying to God I no longer want to be enslaved to sin, but now I want to be a slave of righteousness [cf .Romans 6-8]. God draws me to the message of the gospel in His grace and I must respond in faith. Salvation is not based on how good I am, can be, or wish to be, but solely on the work of Christ. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness [Romans 4:4-5].

You now have come face to face with the breaking news of the gospel. The gospel is indeed life-altering and earth shaking. Your response to the gospel is a matter of life and death eternally. In review the gospel is: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God.

The TRUTH About CHRISTmas; The mile-long buffet

How do you find TRUTH when there are so many options?

 

I love to eat. Sometimes, I will saddle up and travel to the nearest glutton-barn and gorge. The Golden Coral & China Buffet has more food than you could possibly eat. Even if you were to try one of everything you would burst out of your buckle. However, the food is there and you need to get your moneys worth.

 

Take Supermarkets & Department Stores, they have more choices than you really want in any size, shape, or color you want or don’t want. How do you know what you want? You got to try it on to see if it fits.

 

And how about bookstores? I love bookstores. I could spend days in a good bookstore. Yet every time I walk into one I walk out with my mind stuffed from the diet of their mile-long buffet of worldviews. Not a buffet of food, but black and white squares tied together with fancy bindings.

 

This is the buffet season. 

 

I am convinced this world needs to get back to the One-Truth Diet. It can even be found in a Book. The Story begins with the eyewitness’s account of John when God entered the world as a man (John 1:1-5). When people ask, who is this Baby…The One given to Mary in a cow trough? And why is His birth so important? I can confidently tell the real Truth behind CHRISTmas. The TRUTH about CHRISTmas is CHRIST!!!

 

Pilate asked Jesus before His death, “So you are a king?

 

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this reason I have come into the world—to bear witness of the TRUTH.”

 

To tell you the truth…I will tell you more about the Truth.

 

Jesus spoke the TRUTH. The most important truth in the universe is that Jesus claims He is God. “TRULY, TRULY, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn.8:58) I AM = O.T. declaration of God (Ex.3:14). In a real sense Jesus said, I AM GOD Have you heard about the truth of Jesus?

 

Jesus lived the TRUTH.  “I AM the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn.14:6) Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. He is God in human flesh.

 

Jesus established the TRUTH. Jesus died to establish Truth. He was a witness (martyr) for the Truth. He willingly sacrificed His life so that you might know the Truth. Jesus is called the “Amen, the faithful and TRUE witness” (Rev.3:14) “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth” (Rev.1:4-5) Jesus was born with a human nature so that “through His death He might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Heb.2:14) He stepped on the earth to be a sacrifice for man. He lived to die. He died that you and I might have life.

 

Jesus sent you and I to be witnesses of the TRUTH. The truth about Jesus didn’t end with His death, but continues on through you. “As the Father has sent Me, even so I AM sending you” (Jn.20:21) “the word of TRUTH, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph.1:13)

 

The Mile-long buffet of truth starts and ends with Jesus Christ. “For this purpose I was born and for this reason I have come into the world—to bear witness of the TRUTH.”

 

Jesus is not Santa Claus, you don’t have to come to Him with a wish list. Jesus is not a cosmic Easter Bunny, you don’t have to search for Him under rocks or in eggs. Jesus is not David Copperfield, what He does is miraculous. And Jesus is not Mr. Rogers, He invites you to a greater neighborhood. Jesus is the TRUTH.

 

Is Jesus your TRUTH this CHRISTmas?

  

To be spoken at Davis Manor Christmas 2006. Message came with help of Gods Word and a thought from John Piper.