Doing The Impossible!

1 Peter 1:17-25

Many years ago there was a major league baseball player named John Hiller.
He almost died of a coronary, but later returned to star as a relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
He said his remarkable recovery came, in part, because he quit smoking,
changed his eating habits to lose weight, and meticulously followed his doctor's orders.

He had known all along that he was overweight and smoking too much
because he didn't think he could do anything about it.
When he realized how high the stakes were, he had all the incentive that he needed.
He came back to be named, "Firemen of the Year," for the 1973 season.

We are all like him to some degree.
We know we should be better persons and improve ourselves, but we lack the information
and self-discipline to change.

We are just like children who do not grow up to be well-mannered and responsible young people
without a combination of careful teaching, proper motivation, and a helping hand along the way.
This is true for us.

The same is true in the spiritual realm.
We need instruction, incentive, and assistance if we are to make progress in the Christian life.

All of these ingredients are necessary because it just isn't natural for us to be pure, unselfish, and unforgiving.
Can we love somebody the way, Jesus loves us?
Can we pray for people who drag our names in the mud?
Most of us would say that is impossible.
And in our own strength, yes -- that is impossible.

But this is exactly what the Lord expects of us, and He never makes a demand
without providing for its fulfillment.

As Peter wrote his first epistle, he perhaps remembered how impossible it was for him
to be truly Christlike when he attempted to do it on his own.
He very likely remembered how he had failed on the night of the Lord's arrest in Gethsemane.
He had been determined to be true to the Lord, and had even boasted that he would never forsake Him.

But when the men arrested Jesus, Peter fled disgracefully, and by morning,
he had denied his Master three times.
But the loving Saviour later restored their broken fellowship, and through the power of the Holy Spirit,
Peter became a bold and fearless witness for Christ.

We can understand why Peter, in view of his own past failure and restoration, would accompany
the commands in his letter with specific instruction and the assurance of God's help.
When Peter tells the saints to live in reverence, in faith, and in love, each demand is coupled
with a specific doctrinal truth and the graciousness of God's provision is emphasized. (1 Peter 1: 17-25)

First, we are to live reverently.

God's Word commands believers to live in reverential awe before God.
Peter writes: "And if ye call upon the Father, who without respect to persons judgeth according
to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear
." (1 Peter 1:17)

Do not misunderstand the meaning of the phrase – "in fear".
In no way does this imply that we are to be terrified of God.
We are not to live in dread of Him, like a slave who cowers before a cruel master.
Not at all!

Rather, the words, "in fear," refer to a deep, respect for the Lord.
We are to stand in awe before His majesty and holiness, and to worship Him as Almighty God.
We are to wonder at His mercy and love in providing a way of salvation for us
who were "dead in trespasses and sins."

Therefore, Peter says, "live in reverence."

He then presents us with two great doctrinal truths to help us understand and obey this command.
1) Believers have the unique privilege of being born into God's family by their faith in the Lord Jesus.
2) An awful price has been paid to bring us into that family – the shameful death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Then remember our new relationship.
The first great truth to help us live in reverential awe of God is our new relationship with Him
as believers in Christ.
When we are born again by faith in the Lord Jesus, we enter God's family.
Peter is thinking of this when he says that we "call upon the Father."

Therefore, as God's children we have the privilege of calling Him our heavenly Father.
What a blessed relationship!
The wonder we feel when we realize we are members of His family gives us a strong incentive
to live in reverence before Him.

On the one hand, he gives us assurance and comfort.
Just think of it!
The Almighty God who created and sustains the universe, and who is perfect in holiness,
loved us from all eternity.
In spite of our sin, He provided for our redemption.

He is now our Father, and His paternal eye is ever upon us.
It seemed too good to be true.

On the other hand, with the privilege of being members of God's family comes great responsibility.
As children must answer to their fathers, so we are accountable to the Lord.
Peter said that God "without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work."
The sobering truth gives us further reason to walk in reverence.

We live a better life when we know we must answer to someone.
We are delivered from misdeeds that we otherwise might commit.
In fact, the relationship between our heavenly Father and His children can be compared
to that of a loving, high-principled father and his son.
This boy will receive instruction in the home, and will be disciplined when he does wrong.

He will very likely go through life with far more security and much less heartache than his peers
whose parents paid no attention to them.
The boy may not think about it much, but the guidance he receives brings him much happiness
and bolsters his self-image.

Yet at the same time, he lives under an obligation to do what is right.
He knows that if his parents hear reports of wrongdoing on his part, they will rebuke and punish him.
Though he may dread going home on some occasions, he is learning to live successfully.

However, the neglected son often appears to be carefree, and may even tawnt the youngster
who has the "mean folks."
The undisciplined boy can go home with a light heart after being called in some infraction of the rules
because he knows nothing will happen.
He will become increasingly bold, and may even begin breaking the law,
but he isn't really happy.

He knows that something is missing from his life.
In later years, he'll pay the price for his parent's failure.

To summarize, the fact that we call Almighty God and our "Father in heaven,"
while comforting and assuring, is also awesome in its implications.
What condescending love!
What an incomparable grace!
And what a tremendous incentive to live in accordance with His expectations for us
and to keep far away from sin.

Remember the cost of salvation.

The second doctrinal basis for a life of reverence is the tremendous price that was paid for our redemption.
In 1 Peter 1:18-19 Peter writes, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,
like silver and gold, from your vain manner of life received by tradition from your father's,
but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot
."

The cost of our salvation is in measurable – the death of God's Son.
Jesus Christ died on Calvary to deliver us from the bondage of an empty and unrewarding way of life.
Peter referred to it as "your vain manner of life received by tradition from your fathers."

Before we were saved, we walked a barren, aimless path that offered neither satisfaction in the present
and no hope for the future.
We could find little value in the fleeting delights of our materialistic world;
for when they faded, our hearts felt hollow and our souls were still troubled.

This sense of futility and emptiness, caused by sin, separates people from God.
Even highly, successful men and women are often wretched and despairing,
not knowing that their deepest need is for a right relationship with the Lord.

Multitudes, enslaved to drink, gambling, drugs, or gross perversion, unaware that this "vain manner of life"
into which they fall so naturally is the result of their estrangement from God.

How true is the famous prayer of Augustine:
"Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee."

From an empty life alienated from God and marked by sin and guilt, we have been emancipated,
as the apostle points out, by the "blood of Christ." (Verse 19)
This blood is precious, worth far more than gold and silver or any of earth's corruptible treasures.

He, "who knew no sin," was made "to be sin for us," delivering us from the power of death
and bringing us to God. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Christian, do you reflect upon the depths of despair and sin from which you were delivered?
Do you marvel that God gave His Son to the shame and agony of Calvary for your redemption?
What thrilling thoughts to contemplate!
How uplifting and moving!
What incentives to a life of continual reverence before God!

A consciousness of the Lord and His holiness doesn't come naturally.
We are born with a nature that is self-centered, and this tendency remains with us even after we are saved.
But when we realize that we are God's children, and that His Son paid the full price for our salvation,
the Holy Spirit uses these blessed truths to help us do the impossible.

Second, we are to live in faith.

The second obligation of a child of God is to live believingly.
We are saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, and the continuing Christian life is one of trust.

Peter, speaking of Jesus Christ, says, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world,
but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God,
who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God
."
(1 Peter 1:20-21)

In these verses Peter is speaking of the day-by-day trust that is the essence of godly living,
not the act of faith at the time of salvation.
This is indicated first in the words "who by Him do believe in God."
For the Greek preposition is "eis", which usually describes a continuous relationship.

These early believers were living daily a life of humble trust in God.
This unceasing belief is also in the apostle's mind when he says that God raised Jesus
"that your faith and hope might be in [eis] God."

Therefore, the resurrection of Christ makes possible a life of continuing faith and hope in God.
We know we serve a risen Saviour, and this encourages us to have an unwavering trust,
and keeps the prospect of future glory ever before us.

Peter assumes that these first-century believers already possess a mutual fondness
for one another [phileo love], and challenges them to be pure, fervent "agape" love
that willingly sacrifices one's own interest.

Our spiritual cleansing
First, let us consider the genuine affection believers feel for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We should take note that this is a result of their spiritual cleansing:
"Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren."
(Verse 22)

The Greek words translated, "unfeigned love," are Philadelphian – and did note a sincere,
brotherly, heart-devotion.

The apostle Peter declares that they possess this kind of love right now,
and says that it is based upon a spiritual cleansing that they share.
And this kind of love created a sincere fondness for brothers and sisters in Christ.
Just realizing that every person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is a forgiven sinner like you,
and is going to the same heaven, should make us have a sense of oneness with him or her.

Our spiritual birth

Having dealt with the "phileo" kind of love among believers the apostle challenges leaders
to an "agape" love.
He connects it with the new birth.
In 1 Peter 1: 22-23 we read, "See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again."

This is a call for the kind of love which rejoices when good things happen to people,
and even though we may not naturally like these people.
It means sacrificing valuable time or giving generously of scarce commodities.

It calls for sharing the sorrows of people whose attitudes and actions ordinarily are distasteful to us.
It means praying for those who may oppose us, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile,
and actually sacrificing our own desires to help the other person.
It goes far beyond mere affection for fellow believers.

By nature we are sinful and selfish, and to live in "agape" love is impossible
in our own strength.
Peter realized this full well, and therefore called attention to God's work of regeneration,
which is shared by every believer.

Immediately after issuing the command or fervent agape love, he writes, "Being born again."
The miracle of the new birth gives us the capacity to love purely and unselfishly.

Because God has implanted new life within us, we have the potential to live above the ordinary.
Failure comes when we do not avail ourselves of the provisions that the Lord has made for us.

As we conclude this section of Peter's letter, let us review Peter's practical exhortations
and related doctrinal truths for "doing the impossible."

First, live reverently.
May everyday be marked by reflecting upon God's salvation and the cost involved.

Second, live believingly.
Take seriously the biblical affirmation that your salvation was in God's plan from all eternity,
and that His complete satisfaction with the sacrifice of Christ has been amply demonstrated.

Thirdly, live lovingly.
Learn to appropriate the wonderful truth of your new life in Christ.

As a born-again person, you are enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit to achieve the degree of love
far beyond your natural inclinations.
He will help you to turn the other cheek, to pray for those who may disagree with you,
and to seek the welfare of others even above your own.

You will then begin "doing the impossible."

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White