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The Resurrection Reality of An Extraordinary Moment

The Resurrection Reality of An Extraordinary Moment; Luke 24:36-49, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2010

“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is far more important than out ticket to paradise! It’s the dawning of a new creation and the kingdom of God!”
Dave Fairchild

On July 20th, 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong first step into the history records as he recorded his famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The world was riveted to their radios and TV’s in anticipation of this historic event.

Four months later on November 19th 1969 another moon mission was under way, and the world hardly cared. By the time Apollo 13 came about (The 3rd attempt to place men on the move), the TV stations barely covered the event, as there was no audience interest at all. That of course changed when a mid-mission oxygen tank rupture caused sufficient damage and forced the lunar landing to be aborted. People were glued to their sets once again to watch the multi-day rescue of our astronauts.

What’s equally interesting is a true event that occurred during the Apollo 11 mission. Second man on the moon (Buzz Aldrin) wanted to do something special after they landed on the moon, so 2 ½ hours after landing and before their famous stroll on the moon, Buzz Aldrin said, “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way” and then he continued on to take communion. He was planning on announcing this to people back home, but NASA was being sued by famed atheist Madalyn Murray-O’hara for Apollo 8 astronauts reading from the book of Genesis during their journey around the moon. As cool as walking on the moon is, it should never take a back seat to the reality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection…

It’s all too easy to come to the gathering today as just another day. Easter has become more about eggs and bunnies that it is about the resurrection of our Lord. We have done the worse thing; we have made the sacred “Ordinary.” Just like future moon missions, we have taken a “Been there, done that” attitude to the most amazing historical event in cosmos history! We give far more credence to human achievements (As great as some of them are) than we do, to God coming to earth, as a fulfillment of years of prophecy, then dying for our sins, and raising from the dead as a the ‘First Born’ into the new kingdom that His resurrection inaugurated. Man, I pray that we see this day as far more spectacular than this!

From the Head…

The Resurrection Witnessed As Real (Luke 24:Luke 27-35 + 36-37)
Our verse starts out with “These things.” What are “these things?” This refers backwards to vv. 27-35. In v. 27 we see that Jesus goes back into the OT and uses the prophets to verify the veracity of His existence and works. The early disciples began to recognize that “The Lord has really risen, and appeared to Simon.” What’s interesting though is how they first reacted. It’s one thing to hear about their “Experiences,” but seeing Him was something different altogether. The story language is not couched in the language and story-form of mythology and fable. What He was, and what He looked like “Startled and frightened” them! Why? Was His body different? A lot of this confusion has to do with our pre-conceptions of heaven. As we will see, this is a “Physical” body, but it’s a physical body that has been changed (See 1 Corinthians 15:42ff). Paul struggles to explain this concept in 1 Corinthians 15. When God gets a hold of us, we are moved from one kingdom to another (Colossians 1:13), yet before we are physically changed, we remain as “Aliens” in this world (Acts 1:6; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). So in one sense we are like Christ, and we are called to operate in both worlds, but when we are physically changed, we will be able to live in the multiple dimensions that God has created, which is why in Revelation 21 we see a “New” heaven and earth coming together and God rules among humanity. What a fantastic picture; the resurrection embodies something totally different. It’s way more than our ticket to heaven; it describes a “Transformation” that takes place as a result. The resurrection also gives us a great picture of our new bodies in the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus Christ. There has been way too much argument that His resurrection wasn’t physical, based on verses that He ostensibly walked through walls, and people didn’t really recognize Him, etc., but in reality, as we will see in this passage, Jesus was physically raised from the dead in His “Eternal” body, just like we will be some day, which is our great hope. Most of the argument surrounding a non-physical resurrection of Jesus comes from a liberal attempt to find other more “rational” explanations for texts like this, but this was not a major issue in church history until the “Enlightenment.”

Some Thoughts on the Resurrection’s Reality
• If the resurrection didn’t happen in reality, why did the previously devastated and scared apostles die a martyrs death for the proclamation of the “Resurrected Christ?”
• If the resurrection didn’t happen, why was it the dominant message of the early church?
• If the resurrection didn’t happen, why did the early church (Which was made up of Jews) change the day of the week they worshipped from the Holy Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday AM?

The Resurrection Demonstrated As Real (Luke 24:38-43)
Now Jesus’ response to the disciples incredulity was not, “Oh don’t worry, I’ll set you straight,” it was “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” This is interesting. The word for “Doubts” is the Greek word dialogismos, which we get our English word “Dialogue” from. It has the idea of “Inward Reasoning.” The core of a lot of anxiety is our own doubts. We don’t believe God is “Good” enough. We spend time in worry and over-controlling, “Dialoging” the issues in our lives. To this Catholic Monk Henri Nouwen writes:

“The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your wounds to your head and heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down to your heart. They you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you.”

Where does Jesus take them to deal with their fears and pain? The demonstration of the effects of the cross and His subsequent Real Resurrected body. Talking about and worrying about the pain you have faced doesn’t heal it; it just exacerbates the horror of them. If Jesus’ death on the cross was a hoax, and his resurrection was a mere phantom of someone’s imagination, it has nothing to say to us today; but if His death and subsequent resurrection was real, then it has immense implications on reality, and our pain and suffering at the moment, which is fleeting compared to the Kingdom that has been inaugurated as a result of His work on the cross. Amazingly our text says “And while they still disbelieved,” but their disbelief was connected to their “Joy and amazement.” Basically, “It was too good to be true” (Acts 12:14-17), but Jesus one more time demonstrates the fact that He was more than an apparition or Spirit; He was real and asked for something to eat. The people that were present for this event were absolutely astonished, because this sort of thing didn’t happen in their day and age either, and “rational” people didn’t believe people rise from the dead then either!! It was an astonishing, frightful, joyful event, but we’ve made it in to another day worrying about the roast after church than realizing the immensity of this moment.

This passage definitely refutes the idea that His resurrection wasn’t real, or as some liberals say, “He is resurrected in our hearts,” often citing verse 32 as their proof text. The resurrection of Jesus was a “Physical” resurrection, inaugurating the kingdom of God, which will be completely realized in the end (Revelation 21). Our resurrection will be physical, but we will be able to exist eternally with God in our new bodies. Thus heaven isn’t a place that spirit-winged fairies fly from cloud to cloud, heaven is a place that has God present as ruler, and humans glorifying Him with the work they were created to do in the first place.

The Resurrection Prophesied As Necessary (Luke 24:44-46)
This is quite important, in that it demonstrates to us that the cross of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection was not an afterthought, but it was a very necessary action so that His justice could be demonstrated (See Romans 3:25). The Old Testament pointed to it, and the New Testament reminds us of its reality, and it’s power in our lives. Luke carefully emphasizes this here, because it demonstrates that this event is the fulfillment of God’s story and His promise to humanity (See Genesis 3:15; 12:3). Notice that Jesus had to “Opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” which is crucial to coming to repentance and forgiveness; the result of understanding the plan of God…

The Resurrection Results As Necessary (Luke 26:47-53)
The resurrection was the inauguration of a new body, and new kingdom plan, and the results of that kingdom plan was life as God intended it. What our world desperately needs right now, is a world that lives this plan, and not our own. Our desires to live as the world lives, leave this world empty of gospel grace, and replete with humanistic moralism, therapeutic nonsense and political power, thinking that somehow, these will change our world. We literally need Jesus to “Open our minds” and extricate us from the land of the dead, into the land of the living, which will radically rearrange our thinking (See Romans 12:1-2). When Jesus enters our thoughts and minds, and transforms our life, at the very least, the following becomes a reality:

• Repentance and Forgiveness (v. 47)
• Witness of the truth (vv. 48-49)
• Worship of the truth giver (vv. 50-53

…to the Heart

What began in the latter days of Jesus’ life is picked up in Luke’s volume 2; the book of Acts, showing us what the “Power from on high” does to its subjects, and how the kingdom of God present acts and looks like; the good news is proclaimed to the poor, liberty is proclaimed to the captives, the blind recover their sight, liberty is given to the oppressed, and the year of the Lord’s favor is proclaimed. In a nutshell, the world is set upside down! Happy Lord’s Resurrection Day! Don’t make it ordinary!


The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7
Preached @ Harambee Church (Renton Gathering of Soma Communities) by Pastor Michael Gunn on March 20th, 2010

Here is a passage that can sometime be misused as a passage that defines deaconate structures in the church. While we can glean some insight into leadership issues in the church, this passage is way more closely related with the authors intent, and the theme of the book, which centers on the gospel mission before them, and the Keys to the Establishment and Expansion of the First Century Church.

The question for us here is why did Luke include this story on his narrative? How did this relate to his intent? The issues surrounding this story are relevant for every church plant I have ever seen. Almost every plant begins with its ideals and values, and there is often excitement at first, but once the church begins to grow into an “Institution” it faces some enormous growing pains that are familiar to all human institutions, and the church unfortunately is not immune to the problems. I think it is at this point, how the church handles this movement usually can make or break whether or not that church will remain effective for the gospel in their community.

: Some important background info here helps us understand the issues besetting the Jerusalem church at this time. No nation at the time of Christ had a more vigorous sense of responsibility to the poor than the Jews. The synagogue had a routine custom that would send 2 collectors out to private households and the market every Friday (Called the Kuppah or Basket) to collect for the poor, and they would later distribute it to those in need. First, to those that just needed help for the moment, they would give a daily ration, but those who were permanently unable to care for themselves they would get enough for 2 meals a day for the week (14 Total Meals). In addition to that, a collection went out every day (Called the Tamhui or Tray) for those in pressing need. Now it seems obviously that the Christian church continued this custom in the early Jerusalem church, but the problem occurred when the Aramaic speaking Jerusalem/Palestinian Jews merged with the Hellenist (Greek speaking Jews). The former had prided themselves on the fact that they were “Pure,” and that there were no “Foreign” mixes in their midst. Most of these Hellenist had been away from Palestine for so long they had forgot their native language. Many of them were saved during Pentecost (See Chapter 2).

Let’s take a look at the passage and see how the apostles handled the problem…

From the Head…
Basically what we have seen so far is that Jesus had told the church to be His “Witnesses” to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the whole world (Acts 1:8). This is the command and it is congruent with Jesus’ ‘Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. This is why the church exists, yet the church continually falls away from this mandate to formulate other identities more suitable to those that “Pay the bills.” The church is often more concerned with its personal survival than it is with the mission, which is to proclaim the gospel to the nations. Subsequently it falls into a privatized quest for personal spirituality instead of doing the work it was commissioned to do.

The early church continued to grow in Jerusalem (See chapters 4-5), but as usual, the problems that beset the church is more often from the inside than the outside. It’s funny how churches can easily be distracted by worrying about how the “World” is going to destroy the church, when the problems that hurt the most come from the people on the inside. It’s also interesting to note that the story Luke tells right after this one is the Story of Stephen and of persecution, and how God used the “Outside” issues to actually spread the church (See Acts 8:1-4).

The Problem of Disunity and Bickering (Acts 6:1)
Once any church plant begins to grow, dissent sets in. Someone is going to be frustrated at something the church does. Complaints start early and they often become the focal point of the pastor’s attention instead of the gospel itself. It’s at this point that the leadership has to make a decision; which is more important? The Mission? Or the complainers? This issue is a common one; it’s racially and ethnically motivated. I would say this is common to every church in one way or another. “Why are you so concerned with ‘those people’ when you aren’t doing enough for me/us?” As soon as we put our race, ethnicity, national origin, country, political affiliation, self-righteous pandering in front of the gospel and the mission God has for us, we kill off what we are called to do. The church doesn’t reach outside of its own race, values, etc. because deep in its heart, it is prejudiced against the “Others.” Luke’s intent was to show how the church began to fulfill Acts 1:8. Right away it encountered ethnic pride and “Tribal” issues. “We don’t associate with those people” became more important than the call itself to “GO” to “ALL the WORLD!” The church was never told to segregate itself into the “Homogenous Unit Principle.” Ephesians reminds us that the 2 worlds were placed together as the fulfillment of the “Mystery” of God that would proclaim His glory (See Ephesians 2:11-22). Sin separated humanity into factions, and God later scattered humanity into languages because of sin and pride. It is the “Mystery” of the gospel that God comes here to reconcile that and show His glory by bringing humanity back together through the gospel of Jesus Christ. To this theologian Ajith Fernando writes:

“The solution was not to divide and have separate churches…Rather they sought to ensure that the Grecians were cared for…Eastern and western cultures were in contact and conflict in Antioch. The relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church was debated and decided here (Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-13). Yet the early believers remained as a single church. Recent studies also show that the churches founded by Paul had a mixture of social levels in each congregation and reflected a fair cross section of urban society.””

Here is a key to the Establishment and Expansion of the church into the gentile world. The early church did not try and create separate churches for the different ethnic groups (In spite of language and custom differences), but as Ephesians 2 reminds us He made both groups into “One new man” (Ephesians 2:15). Church growth principles tell us to reach only one group of people because it grows faster and it’s easier. That is for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be the model of the “God Glorifying” gospel that we have been handed. We are so tied into “Our Style” and “Our Music,” that we are inflexible and indifferent to anyone who does it differently.

The Priority of Mission and Flexible Structures (Acts 6:2-4)
The hardest thing for any pastor/leader to do in the church is to stay on point and move the mission, not giving in to the mass pressure to become internalized. The church has become a consumer nightmare, because church leaders have become mesmerized by size rather than expansion. There is a difference. Expansion is way larger in scope, but possibly smaller in part. The disciples had Acts 1:8 before them when they made their decision to not be derailed, yet deal with the problem before them. They new 2 things: First they needed to do what they were called to do, which was to pray and teach the word, and secondly, someone needed to deal with the problem that was fragmenting the church and the subsequent expansion of the gospel to the gentile world. Here we have a very key principle that often is lost in church management. Structures serve the mission, the mission should never serve the structures. So often people are so comfortable in the “Way we have always done it,” that they are inflexible and begin to paralyze the mission of the church. Here we see the disciples making a decision that allows the problem to be solved, while at the same time, they continue to do what they are called to do; pray and minister the word of God. Pastors are not functional saviors, defined by the culture as “Chaplains to the community.” They are called by God to preach the word, and move the mission of the gospel forward by “Equipping the saints for the building up of the church” (See Ephesians 4:11-12). Simply, the mission does not go forward without the leadership being bathed in prayer and the word (Hearing from God, the head of the church). The problem is many pastors see themselves as counselors, managers, etc. instead of men who know the word, and can feed that word to their people with authority. The leadership cannot guide the movement along the will of God without consistently hearing from God. This is why one of the qualifications of the elder is the “Ability to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:9). Paul himself told the church at Ephesus that “I have not refrained from setting before you the whole will and purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

The criteria the Apostles used to find the men to “Serve Tables” is important. “Men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Not men that have the world’s abilities, but men that that the congregation knows, and already sees as solid because they have seen them in community, and it is evident that they are men filled with the spirit and wisdom. This can only be done in close proximity, which is why the Apostles were smart enough to give this duty to the people that knew the men the most. Church leadership is meant to come from within, by others that already view the qualities needed in a spiritual leader.

The Plan Executed (Acts 6:5-6)
As soon as they are asked the congregation chose men that represented them well, and the Apostles laid hands on them and commissioned them to do the mercy ministry needed to bring unity and ethnic equity back so that they could move the mission forward. It is interesting that the first leadership position recorded in the NT is one of Mercy, and “Social Justice.”

And what we see as a result is the end of this first section of Acts in v.7 “And the word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” What is interesting is what happens after this. Chapter 7 records the martyrdom of one of these choices (Stephen) and the scattering of the church in persecution, yet chapter 8 begins with explaining to us that the persecution is what furthered the gospel (Acts 8:1-4), which is clearly the intent of this book.

…to the Heart

I think the heart check this week is to check how fervent we are to the call of God in our lives? Are we “Doing Church?” Why come? For your own personal gain? Does church exist to further our own agenda’s or to be a comfort for you? Or is the “Church” the people that God has called from all nations to be a witness to the resurrection and His power in the transformed lives of the body loving one another and living in unity, which reflects His glory best?

Born to Bring Life – Newness of life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 and other selected texts

Born to Bring Life – Newness of life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 and other selected texts
Preached by Pastor Caleb Mayberry @ Renton Gathering of Soma on December 27th, 2009

Every year we often reflect on our many shortcomings and failures and experience regret for not having been more disciplined to do what we wanted to do. And so every New Year we believe that January 1st will be the date that signifies the beginning of long and lasting change. We create another list of things that we will vow to do or not do in hopes that we will perhaps make up for past transgressions or that we will finally prove our worth to ourselves, someone else, or God. And yet a month goes by, or two weeks, or sometimes just a few days and we have already been owned by the list. January 1st is not our hope. A new list and a new resolve is not our hope. Our strength and resolve to follow our lists will ultimately fail. Real hope of lasting change can only be found in Jesus. In this sermon, we’re going to see how the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is foundational to our hope to walk in newness of life.

From the Head…

Peter’s Resolve: Luke 22:33 “Lord I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Peter makes a very bold and courageous statement. Peter is part of Jesus’ inner circle of his three most trusted friends. If anyone had Jesus’ back, it would be Peter right? Well Jesus new that Peter would not be strong enough to live up to his bold statement, at least not now. In the following verse Jesus foretells of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ.

Peter’s Denial: Luke 22:54-62 – Here we see Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial come true just as Jesus has stated. Afterwards Jesus looks at Peter, and Peter remembered what Jesus said, and so he wept bitterly.

• Question for Reflection: Have you ever done something sinful that you thought you never would do? How did you feel afterward? How do you think Peter feels?

Peter’ Problem: The problem with Peter and with us is that we are still sinful. We do not yet have perfect and glorified bodies and so when we trust in our own strength to do the things that we want to do, we inevitably fail. Paul articulates this struggle in fallen man in Romans 7:21-24 “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging a war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in me. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

That’s the question we must ask ourselves. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Certainly it cannot be ourselves, because we’re the problem! The solution must look outside of us.

Jesus’ Prayer for Peter: Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him. And so Jesus prayed beforehand that his faith would remain. The hope for Peter is not based on his own resolve, but in trust in Jesus. But why is faith in Jesus hope for Peter? The reason is because Jesus was raised from the dead!

Resurrection is foundational to our faith: 1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Why because of verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Like Peter we are also dead in our sins. Our hope is not just in a Jesus who died, but in a resurrected Jesus. We need hope that the death that our sins deserve has been fully paid for and conquered. The literal, historical, resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth proves that God has accepted his sacrifice as having satisfied the wrath of God and demonstrates that our ultimate enemy, death has been conquered. Through faith we, like Peter, are united with Jesus not only in his death, but also in his resurrection.

Newness of Life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Question: What motives us to walk in this newness of life?

…to the Heart

Love for Jesus motivates us in the newness of life

First, Jesus provides a hint of what this is in his prayer for Peter that we read earlier. Jesus prays that when he turns again, he is to strengthen the brothers. Another way to say this is that when Peter’s faith is strengthen again or as he places his trust in Jesus, he will be motivated to then strengthen the brothers. Our motivation for living out the life that God wants us to live is rooted in the object of our affection, namely Jesus. Jesus is not as concerned about our natural resolve to do good or the vows we make to become better people. But Jesus is concerned with our heart.

Read John 21:15-19. In this passage, we see that Jesus is not trying to get back at Peter for denying him. Jesus just wants to know one thing from him, does Peter love him? And that’s his question to us. Do we love him? If so, then we will, by his grace, do the things that he asks of us not out of a motivation of guilt, shame, or trying to prove oneself, but out of a motivation of love. So I pray that we would not look to New Year’s Day as our hope for new life, but that this day and every new day might serve as a reminder of God’s amazing grace and the new life that we now have as we love and trust in Him who rose from the dead.

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #1

The Stewardship of Grace Pt. #1: 2 Corinthians 8:1-14
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on September 13th, 2009

As we celebrate Harambee’s 7th year of existence and enter into a new year; albeit a year of change and maybe some uncertainty, we enter in hope, because of the gospel of grace. This year we will be in the book of Acts (Starting November 2009), but we are going to look at stewardship for these next few weeks. Stewardship (Or giving) is a tough subject since it is so connected to our circumstances and idols. Some churches certainly talk too much about giving, while other, such as Harambee do not talk enough about it. It is my apology that we have not preached the full counsel of God’s word. Stewardship is spoken about quite often in the bible, and it is a subject that can bring out many emotions, because we are so controlled by our time and our money. We don’t think that the gospel ought to make any demands on our life; certainly not in the area of what we do with our money. I could take the tactic of causing you guilt so as to raise our giving, but that would be quite un-gospellike. If we have yielded our lives to God, then we have yielded that which is most important to us; our time, talent and treasure. Discipleship is connected to giving and the proper stewarding of the many gifts that God has graced us with. We are called to die to ourselves and empty ourselves and it is there (In Christ) that we find our joy and abundance.

One thing is for sure giving is a heart issue, related to grace, and not related to our procuring a new identity and standing with the Lord. Grace giving is a natural by-product of the gospel working on our lives. It is a sign of grace residing in us. Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 8 for the words of Paul on this subject.

From the Head…
First of all, we note that Paul is discussing the giving of the Macedonian church to the Jerusalem church as a way of relief. However the principles of giving here (2 Corinthians 8-9) are good guidelines to stewardship of all kinds. Paul is commending the Macedonian church (These are churches that Paul founded near Greece) to the Corinthians as a way of teaching them in regards to giving. Paul took no money from them (See 2 Corinthians 11:7-9). Paul was a tent maker, and he raised his own support. I too can say the same thing, as I now raise all of my support outside of Harambee, so I am freed up to do what God has called me to do. Paul can talk about giving freely knowing that he has no ulterior motive. So many of the TV preachers preach about giving as a way to blessing, so that they can be the one being blessed.

Giving is not the path to the blessing, it is the result of the blessing (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Generosity is an affect, not a cause. Giving sacrificially is a result of the reality of the joy of Christ in our lives. Giving isn’t a pathway, or a work to be done because we ought, but a result of the gospel working in our lives. It is a showing of God’s grace. Joy is connected to contentment, which leads to the ability to live with any means since we are filled in Christ (See Philippians 4:11-13). When we are joyless, we need to create that joy through circumstances and new toys. Paul so clearly indicates this point in verse 9 when he uses the prime example of God’s grace in our life; Jesus’ death in our behalf. He was made “Poor” just like the Macedonian church was, so that we could be made “Rich.” It is when we are content and joy filled in Christ that we can be givers of ourselves and our stuff as an act of “Re-Gracing” to others.

Giving is motivated by a restructuring of our understanding of our possessions (2 Corinthians 8:4-5)
They weren’t motivated by guilt and human expectations, but the desire to participate in what God was doing. This wasn’t done as an expectation of Paul and his people; it was done because they “Gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God, to us (2 Corinthians 8:5). The will of God in this instance was ascertained by the fact that they had given themselves and their stuff to the Lord. This is a key to stewardship; that we see all of who we are and the things we have as the Lord’s and not our own (See Psalm 24:1). It is easier to depart with things that aren’t our own. We live in a culture that emphasizes material possessions as a symbol of our success and significance. This makes giving things up in accordance with God’s will harder for us to obey. The Macedonian church saw their possessions as first the Lord, then they recognized that God was working through the ministry of Paul and his men, so they were happy to participate in the work of the Lord in this circumstance.

Giving is an act of grace and love (2 Corinthians 8:6-8)
While giving is a consequence of grace in our lives, it is also an act of grace and love demonstrating God’s grace and love in our lives. When we withhold giving, we are missing out in the grace opportunities we are given to bless others with a symbol of the grace we are blessed with. Paul is urging Titus and his team to complete what their intentions were, and to demonstrate the grace of God to others through their gift.

Giving is the result of restructured desires (2 Corinthians 8:10-11)
This last point is crucial to biblical stewardship. It was their desire that motivated them to give. Desire is ultimately what motivates us to do anything. We do what we desire. We can try to do something else, but it is the desires of our heart that we ultimately follow. It is a restructuring in this area that happens to us through the preaching of the gospel. If our desires are truly self-centered then giving is not going to be a part of who we are. It is our desires that bring glory to God or ourselves. Anyone can give money and actually have a desire to help others, but if their desires are not motivated by God and His glory, the work is not pleasing to the Lord, because their motives of their heart are self-centered. This is why two people can do the same act, yet one is doing for completely different reasons than the other.

…to the Heart
Anyone can be a giver, and as a matter of fact, many non-believers are more hospitable and gracious in their giving than non-believers. This does not negate the gospel in our lives. Biblical giving to help others is not based on nationalism, moralism, self interest, or guilt; it is based on the grace that God has shown us in Jesus Christ, which restructures our desire and understanding of our possessions, so that we are free to give of ourselves for the glory of God in this world. As believers, we have more reason to be givers than anyone else. There is no greater motivation to care for the world’s poor than the grace of God when we truly understand what that means.

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah Chapter 4

The Mission and Call of God For His People: Jonah Chapter 4
Preached by Pastor Caleb Mayberry @ Harambee Church on August 30th, 2009

Upon finding out that the Ninevites were not going to be judged, we see Jonah’s deep hatred for the Ninevites is revealed when he complains to God. In the final chapter we will see how Jonah’s and our anger is rooted in pride and self-righteousness and how this blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion. Moreover we see that character of God is in stark contrast to the anger and pouting of Jonah. We see that God actually desires grace and mercy over that of judgment and it is from his gracious character that God seeks to teach Jonah about compassion.

From the Head…
I want to make three key points from the text in Jonah Chapter 4. First, that man’s hate and anger is rooted in pride and self-righteousness. Second, that our pride blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion. And Third, that God’s grace is dispensed liberally to even the ones we hate.

1. Our pride and self-righteousness is revealed in hatred and anger.
Verse 1 states that it displeased Jonah exceedingly, or it also has the idea that what God did was exceedingly evil. In other words, Jonah felt God did not do the right thing. Jonah believed in his anger that he was more advanced in his view of righteousness than God. Is this not pride? Is Jonah not thinking more highly of himself than he ought?

Questions for reflection: Who are you angry at and why? Are you better than them? Are we quicker to anger than God? The Bible says that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. How do you measure up?

2. Our pride blinds us to our own dependency on grace and renders our hearts incapable of compassion
Pride, self-righteousness, and anger are a barrier to mission because it goes counter to the gospel. Jonah has just been blatantly disobedient to a direct command that he heard from God. Disobedience to God’s word was what got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden and stained humanity with sin. And so Jonah is just as guilty as Adam and any other sinner that has come after him. But instead of Jonah perishing in the belly of the fish and being cast forever away from the presence of God, God graciously hears Jonah’s plea for mercy and gives him another chance. However Jonah’s heart was still very wicked. Though he demonstrated some measure of faith in obeying God’s command the second time, his heart was clearly not in alignment with God’s. Jonah still felt that his people were superior to the Ninevites and that they deserved nothing but judgment. Because of Jonah’s pride that fueled his hate and anger, he was unable to have compassion because somehow he believed that he deserved God’s grace where the Ninevites did not. Once we start to pick and choose who deserves or doesn’t deserve God’s grace, then we’ve absolutely misunderstood the gospel, because the good news is that Christ died for the UN-deserving! God gives grace to the UN-deserving. This is the definition of grace, unmerited favor. No one deserves it, yet God in his love generously bestows it.

3. God’s grace is dispensed liberally to even those we hate
We see in this chapter a glimpse into God’s compassionate heart. God pitied the City of Nineveh. He called it a great city, for there were many people and many resources, but they were wasting it all in opposition to God. And so God announced judgment upon them, but he did so in a way that demonstrated that his ultimate purpose was not judgment but of their salvation. God cared about the Ninevites. God had been personally working on the Ninevite people to prepare them for this time of salvation. Even though they were evil. Even though they were enemies of Israel, God’s chosen people. Even though years later they would return to their evil ways. God still loved them and he purposed to choose them at that time for salvation rather than judgment regardless of whether we think God is right in doing so.

…to the Heart
But not only is God gracious to save those we hate, God is also gracious to expose us of our own hate and lack of compassion. God not only was working on a plan to save 120,000 people from destruction, but he was also, in the mean time, working to reveal the hatred and sin in the heart of Jonah. Why did God choose Jonah? Was Jonah the only man that could do the job? Not at all. God could have sent anyone down there to call out against the city, but he chose Jonah. Why? Because God wanted more of Jonah’s heart. God knew that Jonah was harboring some serious pride and hate that God wanted to deal with. Hate and pride are very destructive. And just as God did not desire the destruction of the Ninevites, he also didn’t want Jonah to be destroyed in his hatred and pride. So God chose Jonah for the task, at least in part, as an exercise in sanctifying his heart. God cares not only about obedience, but he cares about the attitude from which we obey. God loves us enough to put us in situations that test where our hearts are at with God. He did this with Jonah and he is doing it with us today. What situations has God put you in to reveal sin in your heart? Where have you been too quick to judge? Who do you find difficult to forgive? How is God showing you his compassion and to whom are you in turn expressing it to? Our hearts matter to God, so we need to repent of our sinful attitudes and turn to Jesus and acknowledge that we are sinners in desperate need of God’s grace. I think in our humility God will give us hearts to love even those we hate.

Loving service to the glory of God: A Study in 1 Peter, 4:7-11

Loving service to the glory of God: A Study in 1 Peter, 4:7-11
Preached at Harambee by Caleb Mayberry on June 14th, 2009

In this passage Peter sets the context by calling out that the end of all things is at hand and because of this he exhorts us to be self-controlled and clear-headed for the sake of our prayers. Above all, he calls us to love one another deeply using our God-given gifts to serve each other. Done with the right motives, our loving service should and does glorify God through Jesus Christ.

Be alert for prayer
1. Context: End of all things is at hand
Read verse 7 “The end of all things is at hand…” This statement serves its purpose in focusing the mind of the hearer. It sets the context of the times that we are in. Specifically the context is that the central event of God’s redemptive plan has already occurred. God’s victory over evil has been secured and through his Son he has secured the foundation of his Kingdom. Because of this, the only thing left is adding people to the kingdom of God and the return of Jesus Christ to earth for judgment and to usher in the new heavens and new earth. Given this context, now is the time to finish strong, lest we be unprepared to face the king.

2. Self-control and sober-mindedness because of context
Read verse 7 “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded” Preparation involves self-control and a sober mind. As Peter calls attention to the end of all things, he exhorts us to be self-controlled and sober minded. We are to be calm and composed, clear-headed. There is a temptation for us to be otherwise. From substance abuse to sexual addiction to gluttony to loose-spending, we often find ourselves out-of-control. Some of us are out-of-control and not thinking clearly because we’re mastered by another God. (Pleasure, Lust, Appetite, Greed). One of the best things for sobering up is a sense of urgency. It’s urgent because Christ’s return is imminent. It’s urgent because of the work still left to do. And that leads us to prayer…

3. Prayer from a calm and clear mind
Read verse 7 “For the sake of your prayers” Self-control and a sober mind aids in prayer. Have you ever tried to pray when you know you’re not thinking straight? For instance if you’re dog tired, you generally have trouble praying anything that makes any sense. Some say, “well God knows my heart”. Well maybe God is saying you should get some sleep and pray when you have your wits about you. Just as our prayer makes no sense when we’re sleepy, it can also be ineffective when something other than God’s will is the object of our heart’s affection. The more our heart is capture by some other idol, the more that prayer will be in alignment with honoring that idol rather than honoring God.

Love one another earnestly
Read verse 8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers up a multitude of sins.” (see also Proverbs 10:12) Peter assumes that there will be offenses. We are still sinners and we still sin, against God and against each other. Therefore it is all the more important that we be able to love one another in an effort to demonstrate the grace and mercy that God has bestowed upon us. When people sin against each other and there is no love, then sin breeds anger, hate, and more sin in retaliation and perverted justice. But with love, it is easier to forgive, because you know that the one that sin against you, ultimately wishes for your well being.

Some ways that we can better love each other:
1. Show hospitality – Read verse 9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”
Why does Peter say without grumbling? I think he says this because we often don’t have a desire to be hospitable. We might not want people to invade on our personal time. We might not feel like going through the effort to prepare our homes for visitors or to do the necessary planning. Bottom line is we’re often too selfish to be genuinely hospitable so that even when we are hospitable out of guilt we do it with grumbling. Rather, out of a deep love, we are called to receive each other warmly and with a cheerful heart. If it helps, think about how you would like to be treated as a guest, and treat others that way.

2. Serve with the gifts that God has given us – Read verse 10 “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” – God has given all of his children a gift, the purpose of which is to serve one another. Peter generally splits the gifts into two categories: Speaking and serving.
a) Speaking the oracles of God – Read verse 11 “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God, whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies” – If you have a speaking gift, what we say should be laced with the grace and truth of God’s Word, and thus there is a certainness and a forthrightness in what and how we say things. There is also a kind of reverent fear of God, knowing that God has chosen to use our vile lips as the mouthpiece for his holy Words of exhortation. Words are very powerful as they can build up or they can tear down. When we recognize this, there will be a caution in the choice of our words and a desire to think and seek God’s will before we speak.
b) Serving with the strength that God provides – If you have a serving gift, how we serve is indicative of the motives of why we serve. If when we serve we mope around and grumble all the while, this says to everyone that we have no real interest in serving and that we care more about our own comfort than we do about the people we serve. Or if when we serve we are constantly seeking recognition and approval for serving then we say to everyone that we are really more concerned with self-glorification than with the good of whom we’re serving. Rather instead, we are to serve by the strength that God supplies, because firstly, that is reality. Outside of God enabling us to serve, we would have no power to serve. And secondly, when we serve in a way that depends on and acknowledges Gods strength, not only do we have the power to serve despite how uncomfortable it may be, but we also show off the glory of God, in that people will see that we value God and others more than our own inconvenience.

Glorify God in everything
Read verse 11b “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – The purpose of preparation and the purpose of loving service is that God would be the one glorified and not us. The fundamental danger to our spiritual lives is self-glorification. The reason why we’re out-of-control, unfocused, ineffective in prayer, fruitless, and bitter or indifferent towards others, is because we have loved ourselves far too much, to the exclusion of God and others. We have placed our own pleasure, comfort, and recognition above the glory of God, and this is the essence of evil, because it is a perversion of the truth of who God is. The truth is that we are created beings made in the image of one who is far greater than us. He is the one that deserves all the glory for he is the source of all that is glorious. And his glory is made no clearer than in the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. For in his death, God demonstrated his both his righteousness and love to the fullest degree possible. In this we rejoice because God is good and will not tolerate evil and in his love he has made a way for us to be with him forever.

1 Peter 3:18-4:6

A New People for an Old Message: A Study in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on April 7th, 2009

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Most commentators and theologians have argued that this passage we are going to look at today, may be the hardest one to interpret in the entire NT, and possibly in the bible. There are definitely some hard passages to figure out, but I do not want to miss the forest for the trees. Since there are a few decent options, and they have been argued by good men, it may be prudent not to dogmatically create our theology around any of these concepts, but accept them for what they are and stick to what Peter has been driving home all along; that the gospel of Jesus Christ is larger than any trial we are going through. A lot of this book has dealt with persecution and trials that would be the result of following Jesus. Last week we saw that suffering for righteousness sake is a reality, yet we are still called to do good, turn from evil and not repay evil deeds with evil deeds.

Paul begins our passage today reminding us that we shouldn’t be surprised at suffering since our savior suffered unjustly, but he suffered unjustly on our behalf, and it is because of this that we have the ability and the hope (1 Peter 3:15) to persevere through trials and persecution.

From the Head…
Our passage is connected to the verses immediately preceding it. Our passage is an encouragement for those being unjustly persecuted. It’s a passage that displays the victory and vindication of Jesus.

Christ’s Victory (Christus Victor) (3:18–22)

A. His death (3:18)
Jesus unjustly faced death in order to save us for our sins. Peter writes this in the midst of verses talking about being unjustly persecuted by those that hate the Christian message. It is imperative to understand the significance of the cross here. Many want to emphasize Jesus’ victory (Christus Victor) on the cross as a triumphant act of love of God over death, at the expense of His vicarious atonement. It is believed here that the atonement, as understood by orthodox interpretation is a product of 15th century rhetoric, and is a cruel unloving picture of the cross as God’s demand for human sacrifice to satisfy his “Blood Lust;” however the two concepts cannot be separated, and it hurts the gospel, and our encouragement when it is separated. If you emphasize the vicarious atonement apart from God’s victorious love, you do have a bloodthirsty pagan god who needs to appease his wrath and thirst for blood. However, when we emphasize the victorious love of God without balancing with God’s just holiness, we denigrate the need of the cross and the holiness of God. The cross demonstrates both God’s love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) and His divine call to a holy justice (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The encouragement to these persecuted Christians is that Christ did die for the purposes of God (Acts 4:28: Isaiah 53:10), even though His death was unjust and a bloody disaster. This cross doesn’t make God an “Unloving Tyrant” as one person called Him, it is truly a demonstration of His love and justice in that His holiness does require just payment, but in His perfect love, He personally paid the penalty for that justice, so that we could be made whole and righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

B. His journey to the spirit world (3:19–20)
These verses are very difficult to fully understand. What is going on in these verses?
There are 3 main answers that have put forth by theologians over the years:
1) Descent into Hell in between death and resurrection (Popular with early creeds)
2) Pre-Existent Christ Preached during time of Noah
3) Triumphant Proclamation to fallen Angels after the resurrection of Jesus

I believe the text point us to the 3rd view for the following reasons:
1) The best understanding of the word “Spirits” is angelic or “Supernatural beings” (Matthew 8:16; 10:1; Mark 1:27; 3:11; 5:13; 6:7; Luke 4:36; 6:18; 10:20; Acts 5:16, etc.). There is precedent for the word to refer to human spirits, but it is used once (Hebrews 12:23), and it is qualified by the words “just people.” Most often scripture refers to humans as those who have a spirit, but is not normal to say that one is a spirit.

2) If #1 is true then it would be normative to see the “Spirits” as those angelic beings who intermarried at the time of Noah, and who had children that are referred to as “giants”/Nephilim. The “Spirits” here seem to refer to the “Evil Spirits” associated with the children of the Angel/Human consummation (See Jude 6-7; 2 Peter 2:4-5).

3) The clause “In which” (“in Whom,” NIV) appears to be connected to the antecedent “Made alive in the Spirit,” which makes the proclamation of victory over death after the resurrection; destroying the effect of the fall and death on humanity, and Satan’s greatest weapon (See Romans 8:34-39; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58).

4) There is no supportive evidence for either a “Second Chance” doctrine for those that have died, or for fallen angels to be saved.

5) It appears that the demons themselves understood that Jesus would finally condemn them (Mark 3:23; 5:10-13; Matthew 8:29; 12:25; Luke 11:17-22). This was Christ’s proclamation of victory over death, and their stronghold on earth. This would later be completely put to rest at their final judgment (Revelation 20:7-15).

6) The “Prison” may refer either to the “Pit of Darkness” that is reserved for Satan and his angels (2 Peter 2:4), or to the idea that the word means “Refuge” and has the idea that Jesus went into the spiritual realm to declare to them their weakened position and pending judgment.

7) This is in concert with the idea that “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, whether in heaven or earth” (See Philippians 2: 9-10; Colossians 2:14-15).

These verses are here to exhort and encourage believers who are persecuted. They show us the victory of Christ over death and His enemies, just like we will triumph over our enemies (Including death) in due time. No manner of persecution can separate us from the hope and love we have in Jesus (Romans 8:37-39).

C. His resurrection (3:21)
This verse is demonstrating the “Anti-Type” (The word in the Greek for “Corresponds” is the word antitupos, which is where we get our word “Antitype.” The word means the corresponding partner to the original. The antitupos was the image that a signet ring left in the wax. In this passage, Peter uses the symbolic image of the ark of Noah as a saving device, and now relates this idea of baptism to that saving mechanism. He is clear that he isn’t referring to water in this passage, but the salvation of our souls from death “Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Our baptism in Christ saves us, because Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for our sins, but He has risen from the dead, crushing Satan’s hold on us as believers.

D. His ascension and exaltation (3:22)

Verse 22 picks up after the parenthesis of verses 19-20 and completes the salvific work of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and the final ascension into heaven. This completes Peter’s encouragement to persecuted believers. Christ was unjustly treated, but it is that trial (The cross) that gave Him victory over death (Resurrection) so that He could ascend to the right hand of the Father, as we also do in Christ.

Our Victory (1 Peter 4:1-6)
Here Peter presents the summary of our victory in Christ Jesus. He announces that we have victory because of what Christ has done on our behalf. We are now free from having to live within the desires of the flesh that drive all of our emotions and affections leading to debauchery and sinful living. The preaching to the dead in this context has nothing to do with a second chance doctrine, but the reality that the gospel is preached to those dead and alive and that those that find themselves in Christ can live in Christ in a different manner than the rest of the world. This is the message of Romans 6. We are now free in Christ to live for Him as a result of what he has done on our behalf. We are now motivated by a heart’s desire to show love to our Lord, because He first loved us. I do not believe that this is a second chance doctrine for the following reasons:

1) It contradicts clearer scripture on the subject (Luke 16:26; Hebrews 9:27).
2) It mitigates the importance of perseverance of the believer (1 Peter 4:1-6)
3) It destroys the need for judgment (1 Peter 4:5)

While we should never judge our justification on our sanctification, the evidence of our justification through faith is the works that God has prepared before time (Ephesians 2:10). We are able in Christ to live a life that is pleasing to Him as we live that life by faith in His Spirit, and not in the self-indulgence of our desires as the ultimate motivating factor in our lives.

…to the Heart
Many of us are inflicted with the pain of stress and trials of this world. There are many in this world with direct persecution for their faith. 1 Peter 4:4 reminds us that people will “Malign” you for living differently, but we are called to be in the world as a different kind of person. This is only possible in Jesus. We will always fall short of this ideal, but we are made alive in Christ Jesus and His victory on the cross for our sake, and His righteousness. The cross ought to give us hope and encouragement that persecution and trials are inevitable on this earth, but like Jesus, we will be raised to the right hand of the Father in Him. Our persecution is momentary in light of eternity. In spite of our trials God loves us and is sovereignly watching over us. When we live our lives for our own gain, we will do “Good Works” out of the desire that God will bless our endeavors. In these past few weeks, we have seen that our good works should be motivated by our new identity in Christ, and that when we do good for our own benefit, we will be crushed by trials and either reject God in bitter anger, or judge ourselves as unworthy, and see our trials as a punishment from God. But when we see our trials through the gospel’s lens, we see that like our own savior, it is a necessary evil that purifies our lives and is done for God’s purposes and our own good. We can begin to trust in His sovereignty and goodness in the midst of them knowing that they are momentary and light in relation to the glory we will have with Him in His presence for eternity.

Bless: A Study in 1 Peter 3:8-17

Bless: A Study in 1 Peter 3:8-17
Preached at Harambee by Pastor Michael Ly on May 31, 2009

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil – 1 Peter 3:8-17 (English Standard Version)

Peter continues to reveal what is looks like to “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” as referred to in 2:12. He has described the believers’ relationship with government, the believers’ relationship with their boss, and the role of both husband and wife in marriage. In all these cases, Peter exhorts us to trust God, placing our fear in Him and not in man, centering in the life and work of Jesus. Peter now summarizes this section of this letter, exhorting all believers on how to live amidst their suffering.

Peter tells us to have five attitudes as a body of believers (v.8):

• Unity of mind

Peter has the idea of being like minded and in harmony with one another. Paul has the same idea in Romans 12:16 when says to “live in harmony with one another” or “be of the same mind toward one another”. Believers united in Christ through the Spirit show how valuable God’s glory. We all put aside our own visions of grandeur and fame and we all put forth God’s name and fame in the world.

• Sympathy

The idea is suffering or feeling the like with another – deeply understanding each other. It’s impossible to have unity of mind without sympathy. Otherwise, it’s just a mission statement on a piece of paper or website. This is only possible when we see ourselves for who we really are – a wretched person who has been saved by a glorious and gracious God. I did nothing to deserve this amazing salvation. So I am able to deeply understand other believers because this is true of each of us in Christ. There is a sense of suffering with one another because we understand each other so deeply and understand how amazing it is to be in Christ.

• Brotherly love

Peter’s calling us to love each other like family. Everyone is part of your family and that means everyone is included. That also means when it comes to conflict, you resolve it and grow deeper with one another. This is so counter-cultural, as we live in a culture where you can hop from church to church for any reason.

• Tender heart

Have you ever been deeply moved for someone else? It seems to come right out of your guts? That’s what Peter is talking about here. There is a very deep compassion for one another that makes us soft for one another. When there is rejoicing to be had, we rejoice with one another. When there is sorrow, we have sorrow with one another. When there are victories, we party with one another. When there is defeat, we mourn with one another.

• Humble mind

Peter really is describing an attitude like that of Christ’s when he went to the cross. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

None of these attitudes can be lived out in isolation. We must be deeply involved within a local body of believers where these attributes can really be lived out. To sum it all up, it’s not about me, but about what God is doing in and through the body.

Peter tells us how to respond to the world around us as a body of believers (v. 9):

• Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but bless

Jesus promised that we would have trials and tribulations happen to us. He also promised that the world would hate us and not respond well to every good deed to accomplish. When evil or reviling happens to us, every part of us screams for justice. Whenever something evil or wrong is done to us, our automatic response is to do the same. However, Peter reminds of Christ’s commands given in Matthew 5:38-42, to bless our enemies.

Peter also quotes Psalm 34, which is David wrote after he was delivered out of Abimelech’s presence.

Peter reminds us that Christ is Lord, the Holy One (v. 15)

• Regard Christ the Lord as holy

Peter knows that even while we bless people around us, the response will not always be positive. How do we prevent ourselves from carrying ourselves and responding in fear to the culture around us?

Some translations say “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts”. Regardless, the emphasis is on setting Christ as Lord in your life, realizing he is the only one to fear. Christ is the holy one, which means he is set apart for all your worship and praise. Some believe Peter had Isaiah 8:13 in mind, which says “But the Lord of host, him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

When Christ is Lord, we can have no fear of others. Because Christ is Lord, we can respond with gentleness and respect to all who ask us for the hope within us. Are you living in a way that demands questions from others? Are you living in a way that is so other worldly that your family, friends, neighbors desire to know why?

1 Peter 2:13-25

A New People for an Old Message: A Study in 1 Peter, 2:13-25 Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on May 17th, 2009

“Despite their guilt as Christians and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest.”
On the killing of Christians at the hand of Nero after the burning of Rome

God never promises us that things on this earth are going to be ok. We are just called to love, honor and live just lives. In our passage today we are going to see some verses that I think fly in the face of most Christian ideas in regards to politics.

From the Head…
Recap: It seems now that Peter in our passage (1 Peter 2:13-25) is beginning to work out verses 11-12. Here we are told to “Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul,” and to “Keep your conduct among the gentiles honorable…” so “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” We saw that this is the result of our new identity in Christ (1 Peter 2:9), and a new motivation based on the incredible things that Christ has done for us (1 Peter 2:9b-10). Any other motivation to act on God’s behalf will only end in burn out or pride.

The Command (1 Peter 2:13-20)
Here we have an interesting command of Peter’s; to be in subjection to government authorities for the Lord’s sake. This is similar to Paul’s writing in Romans 13, and Jesus’ command in Matthew 22:21 (“To render to Caesar what is Caesar’s). Verses like this have been the object of much speculation and pondering on the Christian’s role in things like human government.

1. Be Subject Government Authorities For God’s Sake (vv. 13-15)

“Be Subject…”
What are we supposed to do with a command like this; especially when the government is unjust? The Caesar in control at the time of this writing is most likely Nero, a grossly immoral ruler, who was alleged for starting a horrible fire in Rome and then blamed it on the Christians causing the persecution and subsequent brutal deaths of many Roman Christians. Is Peter asking believer’s to be doormats for evil rulers? Most likely he is not. One thing to note is Peter’s use of the word “Basileus” (King) instead of Princeps (First one/Ruler, Emperor). Some see this as a subversive passage, in that Peter is actually making fun of the authorities, but in this context, it appears to be saying that in spite of the personal lives of the rulers, we are to be in submission to these men for two reasons that Peter mentions; One, because God has ordained the rulers to protect and serve the people (v. 14, cf. 2:12; 3:1), and secondly, because it is God’s will, “That by doing good you should put to silence the ignorant foolish people” (v. 15). Peter isn’t condoning their behavior, but he is calling believer’s to a higher calling. When the commands of the state supercedes the Lord’s commands, it appears right to disobey (Exodus 1:17; Daniel 3:3:13-18; Acts 4:18-20; Hebrews 11:23).

The Christian movement was a subversive one. They got themselves into trouble in Rome by claiming that “Jesus Is Lord!” It was an incredibly subversive statement. Peter’s command is not for us to turn our back on injustice, but to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the gospel in the state. I believe that even his use of “Basileus” is to show that he was not enslaved to the powers of this world, but was free from them entirely (See v. 16), but that freedom’s energy was to be used for the good of humanity, even if that meant the death of the believer. Because we

“…by doing Good”
This isn’t defined and it’s a bit dangerous to start filling in the blanks here, but context does give us some idea. First the “Good” helps others glorify God (See v. 12). Since this is in the context of the society (Government) it is quite possible that the “Good” refers to social engagement. In Seeking the Welfare of the City, Bruce Winter says that it may have to do with the large donations Christians made to the good of the city in the form of “Benefactions.” Benefactions were donations put aside to help the social conditions or beautify the conditions of the city. The idea is help build the community for the sake of the community, rather than seeking their own welfare.

2. Love and Honor All and Fear God (v. 17)
This is a summary statement, reminding believers to live a life of peace, giving honor to all, and loving one another, while fearing the only person that can destroy the body and the soul, not men, who cannot do anything of any real consequence, since their identity was now in Christ.

3. Be Subject to Employers (vv. 18-20)
This is speaking of “Servants,” but servants (Oiketai) here are quite different than the horrific institution that we witnessed in our US history. This type of servant was often a way to become a “Free” citizen of the Roman Empire, and did not usually carry with it a destitute existence. Many of these “Servants” chose to be servants because it was a way to have a “Good” life, albeit in the servile employment of someone else (In reality this isn’t as far from many of our own existence).

The Motivation (1 Peter 2:21-25)
As we often see in the NT it isn’t so much what you do, but why you do it. While the religious are motivated by gaining acceptance from God so that they can be blessed, the gospel compels us to recognize that in Christ, we are truly loved and accepted by God, so therefore we obey out of a desire to glorify God and lift up His name and make much of Him. Our motivation is is more important than the subsequent actions. Doing religious actions (Going to church, praying, repenting, etc.) are done by all religious people, but the difference lies in the reason for them. If you are doing these actions to gain something other than Jesus, you are doing them for yourself. Reformer Martin Luther rightfully wrote, “The default mechanism of the human heart is to go back to the religious approach.” Our “Default Mechanism” is our self centered desire to make things right for us, but in doing so, we ironically don’t find the very thing we desire (Joy, Happiness). This is why the religious struggle when trials happen. Because they have doing religious works to appease God, they feel slighted by God and become angry, or they feel they haven’t done enough making themselves guilty and depressed.

When Paul wants to discuss the Corinthians greed and lack of giving, he does so by showing them the poverty of Jesus on their behalf (2 Corinthians 8:9). In our passage Peter also turns to Christ who “Suffered for you.” The fact is all of our sin and most of our negative emotions stem from a disbelief in the gospel (See 2 Peter 1:8, 9). When we do not believe that we are rich in Christ, we will try and find our riches somewhere else. When we do not believe we are loved and forgiven in Christ, we will fail to love and forgive others. The reason we can “Submit” to government entities at our own expense, is the belief in the truth that our reward is Jesus, and we can sacrifice ourselves for the sake of those that don’t know Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10).

…to the Heart
The issues of the heart are hard. We are sinful and our sin is evident in our attitudes toward one another, and our lack of desire to sacrifice to help someone else. We are often “Stuck” in our ways, and no longer to even attempt to deal with our hardened hearts. We feel justified in our greed, bitterness and anger. We aren’t willing to submit to anyone or anything, because we feel they have slighted us, or they don’t “Measure Up” to our standards before we do. This isn’t what Jesus is calling us to. He is calling us to submit no matter what they have done to us, because our submission is to Him, as He submitted to His father in spite of people’s reaction to Him. When we get this, we can submit instead of that deep desire to prove ourselves and gain revenge. Peter is going to continue to hammer us throughout the rest of this book, reminding us that in Christ, we can submit to one another for the sake of the gospel, even when it hurts!!

1 Peter 2:1-8

1 Peter 2:1-8; Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on May 3rd, 2009

“The free-lance Christian, who would be a Christian but is too superior to belong to the visible Church upon earth in one of its forms, is simply a contradiction in terms.”
C.E.B. Cranfield

If it is true that we have been born again by the act of Jesus on the cross, and we are “transformed” by His actions, then Peter begins a reasoned treatise on the nature of the church and spiritual realities ought to be recognized in tangible, gospel ways. Simply; the truth of the gospel affects our actions. Orthodoxy (Right thinking) without orthopraxy (Right actions) is a possible sign that the truth of the gospel is not dominating our lives. Our actions are in no way a way to gain acceptance from God, but they are a result of God’s work in our hearts and minds (See James 1:21-23; 2:17, 24).

From the Head…
The Command
(1 Peter 2:1-2)
Actually this isn’t a command as much as it is a truth. If we are truly going to be a “Holy Nation” we need to stop being “hypocrites” and “slanderers,” etc. It is hard to be heralds of the gospel if we are people that live double lives. Our witness is ultimately based on our lives (Demonstration) as it is the speaking of the truth (Declaration). None of this is possible if we aren’t nourished on the word itself. The word translated “Spiritual” (ESV) is the Greek word “Logikon,” and has the idea of word/or reason (We get Logic from it), which is why the NASB translates it the “Pure milk of the word.” The word has the idea of reason, and is only found here and in Romans 12:1 (Rendered “Reasonable”). This word doesn’t have a western idea of logic/reason attached to it, but it does suggest that there is a reasoned aspect to our spiritual growth (See Matthew 22:37, “Love God with your mind…”). God has given us a substantive “Word” to meditate on. If we are going to grow in our faith, our thinking is going to have to be re-shaped by God’s word (1 Peter 1:13; Romans 12:2). We are born of the word (1 Peter 1:23) and we grow by the word (v. 2).

The Motivation (1 Peter 2:3)
Though this is just one verse, it can’t be overlooked. Our heart motivation is more important than our action. Doing works for God thinking that we are somehow justified by them stems from a misunderstanding of the gospel, and is subsequently the foundation of our sinful heart. Doing religious works do not save you, but they ought to be the result of a heart that is being transformed by God’s love, and is operating out of desire to joyously demonstrate that love, and not justify our existence in any way. We are already fully accepted in Christ, so now we can act out the law in gratitude not fear/pride. Our motivation is God’s kindness. “if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord…”If you have, then you too can act kindly. If you have tasted the forgiveness of the Lord, then you too can forgive. If you too have tasted the grace of the Lord, then you too can act graciously. To the extent that we don’t is the extent that we don’t believe the truth of the gospel in our own lives. The New Testament’s motivation is always through an understanding of what God has first done for us (See 2 Corinthians 8:9).If we can’t see ourselves as accepted by God in Christ, we will always be aiming at finding our acceptance in works or some other idol.

The Desired Result (1 Peter 2:4-8)
The result is the church itself. Our passage gives us insight into the nature and function of the church:

1. The Church as a Community
Peter mixes his metaphors here. The church is called “Living Stones” and a “Spiritual House.” This gives us a picture of the church as individuals that form a community for the sake of the gospel. The bible doesn’t know anything about believers on their own, but God (Writing through Peter) is redefining the synagogue in Christ Jesus as the “Chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). The church is not a place but a gathering of His people for a common goal to “Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are called “Living Stones” like He is since the church is made “Like” Him through His work on the cross; and like Him, we are called out to do the work of the kingdom in the world. Peter uses 3 verses from the OT (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14) to emphasize that we are a community in Christ. All of these verses are originally speaking of either Israel who would be rejected by man, but accepted by God, or the Messiah who, like Israel, would also be rejected when He came; yet it is clear that the NT writers (Writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit) saw these verses as referring to Jesus, and in our context the body of Christ; His church. The emphasis here to these churches who are facing persecution is that they are like Jesus as “Living Stones” who will be rejected by the world who doesn’t know Christ, but fully accepted by God in Christ. As the community of faith, the world will always reject us, because it rejects Jesus (See v.8).

2. The Church as a Bridge-Builder
The church is not just a place to go to, or an institution to be a part of. As a matter of fact, it was never intended to be an institution that puts on a religious show, and parcels out religious goods and services. The Church (All of us) are a “Living Stone” that is given a task to accomplish. Verse 5 reminds us that we are being built up “For a holy priesthood” (See 1 Peter 2:9).

All believers are ministers of the gospel and responsible to act as priests to the unbelieving world. The Latin term for priest (Pontifex) means “Bridge-Builder.” We are like that as a community of faith. The church exists to create bridges to the culture. Unfortunately it appears that we are often more known for burning those bridges than forming them.

Priests mediated between men and God, and the priests offered up sacrifices for the sins of the people. This is similar to Paul’s idea that we are to “Present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). The church (The people, not the place) is to live their lives under the banner of worship. Worship is an attitude of the heart, not an event. When we serve God with joy and love, we are participating in worship. As John Piper writes, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”This is why we were created by God (Isaiah 43:7; see too Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3; note the word “Serve” has the idea of “Worship”). God has always called a people to Himself so that they would honor and glorify Him. This is His purpose in creation and re-creation (See Ephesians 1:6, 12; 14). His demand for His own praise though is also His demand for our greatest joy. We are simply created to find our joy in Him, and our joy is heightened by the praise we give. Sin is a creation of idols that seeks to locate our joy and acceptance through our own works found in either religion and/or irreligion.

So as we honor God and serve Him by serving humanity, we act as bridge-builders of the gospel to a world that doesn’t know Him.. We are as Leslie Newbigin has written the “Hermeneutic of the gospel.” We are able to interpret the gospel to a world that can’t hear it.

3. The Church as a Herald (Witness)
Though we will dissect verse nine more next week, I would like to highlight one truth in regards to the church, and that is the church is a group of “Heralds” proclaiming “The excellencies of Him” This is the duty of the church plural, not one person preaching the word. This isn’t preaching here, this is heralding the good news of the gospel. If we truly a “Chosen Race,” “Royal Priesthood,” a “Holy Nation,” etc. then we are called to be proclaimers (Heralds) of God’s excellence, and that excellence is found in the idea that He has rescued us from darkness!

…to the Heart
My desire is that you won’t try harder, but you will fall in love with Jesus. We are all flawed, and we are all in process, and the gospel should help us understand that, because we should never see ourselves as better or more “Sold Out” than anyone else, however, if the “Imperishable” seed of the gospel is a reality in our lives, we should begin to have a heart for His word, and a desire to please the one that saved us. Our works are never an avenue to being right with God, but they are a result of the grace that God has shown us (See Ephesians 2:8-10). If we can’t treat one another with love, we must Bemis-understanding the love of God on our own lives. If we can’t forgive someone else, we must not understand the forgiveness we have in Christ. As you are nourished by the word, let it reveal who you are, and create a daily repentance and faith routine. Not a religious repentance that acts as though repentance makes you right, but a daily agreement that God is right, and you can appropriate His forgiveness in your life, because He is “faithful and just to forgive you (See 1 John 1:9).