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26th October 2014
The letter of 1 Peter was written to believers who were facing persecution. Peter wrote to them to encourage them to ‘stand strong’ in the face of it all.
We find in the first chapter of 1 Peter that Christians are supposed to live now in light of the future – living as if we are ‘just passing through’, looking ahead of us at what is to come.
Most of us love a nice holiday, but we aren’t always as keen on the long journey to get there. Journeys can start out full of anticipation, but quickly become boring or frustrating. We take long journeys, though, because we have the destination in mind – where we are going makes the journey worthwhile.
For those who believe in Jesus, there is a similar principle: when we fix our eyes on where we are headed and what is waiting there for us, we find strength for the journey, even when it’s hard and we hit difficulties.
Our final destination is incredible; it’s awesome. One day we will see Jesus face-to-face. We are strangers here, just passing through, but in the future we will live on a brand new earth that will last forever. It is an amazing place, full of peace, love, joy, rest, and so much more.
God wants us to have an eternal view of things – an eye on what is to come. Everything here is temporary and will not last; it is “light and momentary”. Everything that hasn’t been redeemed is temporary. How much do you think about the moment you will see Jesus face-to-face? Do you live in eager expectation of this?
We are called to live for Him – not to have slightly better moral behaviour, but a complete change of heart, mind and nature. We can live for Him because His Spirit lives inside of us, changing our hearts. If your heart hasn’t changed, then maybe He doesn’t have your heart. It’s important to seriously think about this.
If you have been “born again”, as It says in 1 Peter 1:23, you are called to live in God’s “marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Living now in the light of the future includes enjoying what we already have, living with the awareness that we are strangers here just passing through, and getting ready and excited, eagerly anticipating that moment in the future when we see Jesus face-to-face.
To listen to the 'Just passing through...' sermon and download the life application questions, click here.
Posted by Santino Hamberis
9th September 2012
Many of us have enjoyed watching the London Olympics. It's been so exciting to see the world's best athletes here in Great Britain. These athletes train day-in, day-out for four years in the hope of winning an Olympic medal. They push themselves hard, they avoid certain foods and they give up hours and hours for what culminates, in some cases, to just 10 seconds on the track or field or diving board. What keeps them going? They have their eyes on a prize that has great value.
The apostle Paul uses the picture of athletes competing to describe the Christian life. He worked so hard because he was committed to seeing souls saved, and he instructs us to train and run as those who want to win the race, not come in second: we're not here to make up the numbers – we are here for a purpose.
None of the athletes at the Olympics just turned up and ran. To compete at this level they dedicate their whole lives to it, letting it consume them. Olympic athletes do this to gain a crown that will last just four years before they have to compete again to regain it. But we are to train and run after a prize that is eternal! For athletes, it is four years of sacrifice for a moment of success; for Christians, it is one brief moment of sacrifice compared to the eternal reward we are running for!
The Christian life is not supposed to involve wandering around aimlessly, nor putting in lots of effort but in no effective direction, nor putting in no effort and wondering why we are finding it so difficult to keep going! The apostle Paul said that he beat his body, making it submit to him – he practised self-discipline so that he wouldn't be disqualified and he took responsibility for himself. Sometimes we can assume that because we've been baptised, take the bread and wine, and share in community life where the Spirit is present, we have arrived and are all set! But we mustn't become complacent. The apostle Paul warns us from Israel's history to be careful not to be like the Israelites, many of whom saw amazing things but were not individually transformed.
We're foolish if we think we can fulfil God's purposes for our lives without thoughtful diligence and commitment. Growth in the Christian life is not automatic! If you go into strict training, it will impact your diary, it will mean giving up certain things and taking up other things. It will involve sacrifice – but a sacrifice that pales in comparison to the great reward at the end!
Verses: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann
26th August 2012
When we expire on Earth, we can take nothing with us. We arrived naked and we leave with nothing – not even a carry-on case! But, as Christians, we can invest in eternity and store up treasure in heaven (see 1 Timothy 6:19 and Matthew 6:20). This isn't like treasure here on Earth, which can be lost in a moment; it's unseen treasure that can never be spoiled or lost.
The greatest treasure we can have it to be with Jesus for all eternity, seeing him face-to-face. But the Bible also talks of an inheritance for those who are in Christ and rewards for work done in faith (see 1 Peter 1:3-4, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10). Some of the ways in which we store up this eternal treasure are outlined in this passage in 1 Timothy, where the apostle Paul writes that we are "to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (v18).
The good news of Jesus is spread through word and deed: God is good and has been good to us, so now we reflect that goodness in our actions to others. Every kind action expresses the gospel, and as a church we want to find multiple ways to help and bless our community, such as the foodbank. We don't want to just tell people of God's love (though that is important); we want to demonstrate it through actions, or as Paul writes here, by being "rich in good deeds".
Just as God has been very good to us, he has also been incredibly generous to us: Jesus gave himself for us, laying down his life for each one of us. His generosity cost him everything! Since God is so generous, we need to be the same. Being generous can be costly and inconvenient, but is part of investing in eternity and, as it says in Proverbs, those who are generous will be blessed – it really is better to give than to receive!
Linked to generosity, we should also be willing to share. It can be easy to give away old stuff that we no longer need or want, but how good are we at sharing the possessions we value, or our time?
The only way we can be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share, is by God's grace, and this is what the apostle Paul brings us back to at the end of this letter, writing: "Grace be with you." (v21) As John Stott says, "They would not be able in their own strength to reject error and fight for truth, to run from evil and pursue goodness, to renounce covetousness and cultivate contentment and generosity, and in these Christian responsibilities to remain faithful to the end. Only divine grace could keep them. So at the letter's conclusion, as at its beginning (1:2), the apostle wishes for them above all else an experience of the transforming and sustaining grace of God."
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Food for thought:
Posted by Santino Hamberis
19th August 2012
In the 21st century, it's easier than ever to believe that we need to accumulate possessions to be happy and that what we have determines our worth. Writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul declares that "godliness with contentment is great gain", reflecting what he has said elsewhere: that he has "learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).
The truth is: it is possible to be content without wealth and possessions – we can have no car, no TV, no computer, no iPad, no holidays! We are not consumers; we are human beings made in the image of God – for his glory! Our value is not defined by how much we have or how much we've consumed. The high street doesn't want us to know this, but we don't need more stuff to be happy!
The apostle Paul isn't saying that we should be content even if we're destitute; he says that if we have food, clothing, the essentials of life, we can be content with that. And when we have the right perspective – in the context of eternity – we do indeed become content regardless of how much we have. We mustn't be short-sighted; if we are only thinking about today, tomorrow, next week or even next year, we are not thinking far enough into the future!
Contentment is found in God and in our future with him in eternity. If we want to get rich, Paul writes that we are likely to "fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" – he uses pretty hard-hitting language! It's not that there's anything wrong with being rich per se – in fact wealthy people have the resources to do much good, and Paul doesn't tell them to give up all they have, but to hope in God, not their riches, and to avoid arrogance. But Paul does condemn greed and a focus on 'getting more'. The antidote is to flee from the love of money and instead to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness".
When thinking about money and eternity, it's a question of perspective and proportion – which is more valuable: to be rich in this age or in the age to come? Is it to accumulate treasure here on Earth or in heaven? Is it to make a lot of money now, or to "take hold of the life that is truly life", as John Stott puts it? Nothing grounds my faith more than how I handle my money. As Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Verses: 1 Timothy 6:3-12 and 17-19 (see also Philippians 4:11-13 and Matthew 6:19-21)
Food for thought:
Posted by Paul Mann