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What Do You Know

Letters of Peter              September 29, 2002

 

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 8:18-22, page 1186, pew Bible

Introduction:

What do you know --- our understanding is a matter of how we emphasize knowledge.

What do you know – a form of greeting.

What do you know – a form of affirmation.

What do you know – a form of clarification.

What do you know – a form of emphasis.

You have probably used this phrase each one of these ways hundreds of times in your life. (Examples)

Would it surprise you to know that God also asks us this same question in order to emphasize knowledge to aid our understanding?

He asked this question in the passage we just read in Jeremiah about the balm of Gilead. (Explain what this is.)

Jeremiah looks ahead into the near prophetic future and sees the suffering of the people about to go into captivity in Babylon.

He cries out for them and God responds with his charge that they have provoked him to anger with their idolatry.

The people weary of exile cry out for salvation. God has their attention. They feel they have been there long enough.

Then God through Jeremiah asks the rhetorical question, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?"

In the question, God gives them the answer.

He is asking, "What do you know?" so that the people will respond, "What do you know?" There is indeed balm in Gilead.

The God of Israel is their healer.

He asks for their clarification so they will discover their source of healing and hope. Understanding is a matter of emphasis.

Just as surely as there is this healing balm produced in Gilead, there is healing in the knowledge of God and obedience toward him.

You see, God himself is the balm of Gilead. We see this in Jer. 30:17 & 33:6 where God says he himself will heal their wounds.

The people are to look to him and return to him in their suffering.

It is the knowledge of God we should seek for our healing.

“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11 NIVUS)

It is the lack of the knowledge of God that destroys us.

“my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” (Hosea 4:6 NIVUS)

I will be emphasizing several related words for "knowledge" in the message this morning as we continue in the letters of Peter.

These several words meaning "knowledge" or "foreknowledge" appear 18 times in Peter's letters.

This tells us that there is something about our knowledge that Peter wanted to emphasize – some things he wants us to know or be reminded of.

Last week's message was on "Finding Purpose in Suffering."

We learned that the semester of suffering is in the classroom of godliness.

We discussed the purpose of suffering so now we will discover what we must know about God to endure it.

No doubt one of the primary ways that Christians are enabled to live and suffer for Christ in the world is because of what they know to be true.

ILLUS: the seven Pakistani Christians executed by being shot in the head this week by Islamic radicals.

There are certain things that are true about God and true because of him.

Knowledge is an important element to affirm who we are as God's people since our knowledge is how we came to be God's people.

It is also what identifies us as God's people both in the world and with each other.

It is what will keep us, and it is what will enable us to make a difference in the world we live in.

Big Question:

What must I know in order to endure as a Christian?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (1Pet. 1:1-2, 20-21)

When Peter first opens his letter to the scattered people of God, it seems imperative that he reminds them up front that God knows who they are, wherever they are.

They might be strangers in the world (1:1) but not to God who chose them (1:2) because he knew them before they knew him.

There are several ways in which God knows who they are.

They are the ones who were sprinkled by the blood of Jesus and set apart for obedience to him by the Spirit.

God also knows that they have grace and peace in abundance because of his knowledge of them.

Just as Jesus himself was chosen before the creation of the world to be revealed in the present time (1:20) for them, they too were chosen in the present time to set their faith and hope in God through him (1:21).

Christians are set apart in knowing their unique position, that before they knew God, God knew them.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know that God knew me first.

He sees the end from the beginning.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (1Pet. 1:17-19)

Your life as a stranger here on earth has immense value because you do not belong here but with him (1:17).

You do not belong to the empty, fallen way of life in this world (1:18) but to the Father.

You are set apart in this because it was not the perishable things of earth, even valuable earthly things, that had any effect for your redemption.

It was the blood of Christ as one who is righteous and innocent that bought you.

So you know your life has value with God and therefore you can live like it.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know my value to God.

He sees the gold from the dross.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (1Pet. 3:7)

Living with value begins at home in the marital relationship.

Husbands are to live with their wives in a knowledgeable way with respect to their comparably weaker physical capabilities.

They must take into consideration their equally valuable spiritual position before God as the heirs of eternal life.

Failure of the husband to take this into consideration will result in his prayers being hindered, and so he must apply any knowledge of God first of all at home.

The people of God are set apart by knowing their value to each other under God.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know others have value to God.

He sees me in relationships. Since others have value, so must I.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (1Pet. 5:8-9)

It would be easy for the devil to defeat us if any particular group or person felt singled out for suffering.

But Peter reminds us we are not alone wherever we are or whatever we are going through.

The experience of Christians throughout the world is potentially similar, especially in their struggle against the devil.

We must stand firm by faith in God to overcome.

We are set apart as Christians by our knowledge of the nature of the struggle.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know I am not alone in my situation.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

 

          A.      Narrative (2Pet. 1:1-15)

 

Christians must know (or be reminded of) the abundant life of grace and peace (1:2) that is theirs through their faith knowledge in the righteousness of Christ (1:1).

That knowledge reminds us of the provision that is ours because of his power, glory and goodness (1:3).

These are the very things which attracted us to him, and the very same things he has promised to give to us (1:4) so we, too, may participate in his righteousness in living above the lure of the world.

So we are encouraged to put our knowledge to work in reaping the abundant life blessings of faith (1:5).

These are listed as goodness, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (1:6-7).

If we work at this successfully, we will prove the effective worth of our knowledge of Christ (1:8).

In other words, our lives will make a difference as his did.

But if our lives are not bearing the blessings of faith in Christ then we are not making a difference in living above the world.

We have forgotten what we know about him, which is his accomplishment in cleansing us from sin (1:9).

Effort is required to apply the knowledge of faith (1:10) if we would reap the blessing of rich welcome into heaven (1:11).

Peter reminds us even though he says we know these things (1:12).

Indeed it is right to do so (1:13) because it is the legacy he wants to leave us (1:14-15).

So it appears that for Peter, both continuing and increasing knowledge of blessing in Christ is a key to the Christian life that sets us apart as Christians.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know the blessings of faith in Christ.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

VI.    Cycle Six

 

          A.      Narrative (2Pet. 2:1-22)

 

Just as right knowledge identifies us as Christians, so also does wrong knowledge (false teaching) identify those who are not (2:1).

Their words will be opposed to the truth of Christ (2:2) because of wrong motives (2:3).

Condemnation will be their lot, not blessing.

Peter gives examples of judgment that has already come upon disobedient angels (2:4), the antediluvian world (2:5), and Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6) for disregarding the right knowledge of God.

But the plan of God for salvation is proclaimed through the example of Lot (2:7) who retained the right knowledge of God (2:8) in the midst of wickedness and was saved from the jaws of destruction (2:9).

So encouragement is given to us as Christians in the midst of wickedness to retain and apply the right knowledge of God lest we fall into the judgment of the corrupt.

To despise right knowledge of God is to despise God's authority (2:10) with a boldness that even angels dare not display (2:11).

They will perish in their foolish misunderstanding (2:12).

Their words and their behavior will expose them (2:13-19).

They do not belong to the Lord (2:19).

They are not Christians even if they once thought so (2:20).

What they evidently do not know about God proves it.

And since they were at least so close as to think they were Christians and then rejected the way of true knowledge, they are now more accountable than ever before (2:21).

They did not really know what they knew, or thought they knew.

And so they never really changed, like an animal that returns to its filth (2:22).

So Christians are set apart as those who receive and retain the true knowledge of God to avoid defilement and judgment.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know the judgment of denying Christ.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

VII.   Cycle Seven

 

          A.      Narrative (2Pet. 3:17-18)

As Peter ends his second epistle, he returns again to the theme of knowledge.

He reminds us to know (or guard) what we know, the things he has reminded us of since we already know them.

We are to be on guard against those who teach against the truth of God.

We ourselves are secure in what we know about the truth.

But if we follow false teaching we will compromise our security.

Christians have security in what God has revealed to them.

Our security is in right knowledge.

Peter then affirms for us that this right knowledge of God is in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There is no different knowledge that we need except to continue growing in the security we have by knowing Christ.

Christians are set apart by holding the truth of God as a sacred trust.

We must guard it well.

          B.      Implication

I can endure as a Christian because I know what I know about Christ.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Conclusion:

Big Answer:

What must I know in order to endure as a Christian?

I can endure as a Christian because I know that God knew me first.

I can endure as a Christian because I know my value to God.

I can endure as a Christian because I know others have value to God.

I can endure as a Christian because I know I am not alone in my situation.

I can endure as a Christian because I know the blessings of faith in Christ.

I can endure as a Christian because I know the judgment of denying Christ.

I can endure as a Christian because I know what I know about Christ.

So now when somebody asks you, "What do you know?" you have a ready answer.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 NIVUS)

And when you run out of answers you can just say that, "I know that I know that I know."

It is enough that you know. It is between you and God no matter what else.

The assurance of your faith is the most precious gift you will ever receive.

Timeless Truth:

Another beatitude Jesus might say: 'You have heard that it was said, "What you don't know won't hurt you," but I tell you, "What you do know about me will save you."'

ILLUS: Re. - the seven Pakistani Christians executed by being shot in the head this week by Islamic radicals.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13 NIVUS)

What do you know? --- that the balm of Gilead is the balm of the true knowledge of God in Christ upon the soul. He forgives, he heals, and he saves.

So now if anyone were to ask you, "What do you know," you can be reminded of eternal truth in Christ and have an answer for anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

It is this knowledge of Christ and this hope in him that saves you – and them.

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