2009-06-14 (pm) 1 Peter 2:11-12 Lord’s Day 32 Why Do Good?
This still remains one of the challenges of the church. Where does doing good fit in? Luther was so concerned that the problem of works righteousness would creep up that he called the book of James the straw epistle, the letter of straw.
Others have gone to the other extreme, saying that all you have to have is faith, but you don’t need to worry about your actions. You can do whatever you want, but as long as the object of your faith is true and pure, it doesn’t matter.
This is what some Christians believe. People of other faiths hold the same sort of ideas. It doesn’t really matter what I do during the week, as long as I pray during the day, as long as I go to the house of worship, as long as I do the minimum amount of obligations, then I’ll be accepted.
People without any religion, or any formalised idea of God, think that simply by being good enough, they’ll get into heaven.
Now, this question comes from it in a different way. Since we’ve been declared good by God on account of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, why does Christ require good from us? I mean all our good deeds don’t mean squat, right? All our striving is as filthy rags, so why bother? What’s the point? God’s not really going to be satisfied in them anyway.
And that is exactly what some people think. They think, well Christ has done it all already, it doesn’t matter how I live, all I have to do is ask for forgiveness. I’m still the ruler of my life. I can make the decisions I want to make. And I’ll figure it out on my own.
Now, as we heard in the formulary this morning, elders and deacons and pastors for that matter, are to live as though Christ is Lord of their lives. Now, this is true for everyone, not just those in leadership, or service, depending on how you look at it. Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. That’s what he is. Whether I choose to acknowledge it or not, that is reality.
Now, it is far easier for me, life goes much better, if I acknowledge that Christ is Lord of my life. He made me, and he knows what is best for me. He desires to give me the very best. And, he’s given me instructions for getting the best out of life. All I have to do is follow his instructions.
Sounds easy right?
Look at the confession, it should be easy. Christ by his Spirit is renewing us to be like himself.
So, at work in our lives, right now, five minutes from now, five hours from now, we’ll be like Christ in our sleep, I guess. Five days from now, the Same Holy Spirit will be at work in all of us, renewing us to be like Christ.
But what’s your experience? Is it easy to follow the Spirit? Do you have those moments when you know that you’re about to make a decision that may or may not have negative consequences?
For me, one of my weaknesses is flyers. Flyers tempt me. I like looking at things and I like getting new things. But once I have these new things, the happiness I thought I would get from them isn’t there.
It’s like what Paul says in Romans 7. If it wasn’t for the command, do not covet, I wouldn’t have known what coveting was.
So, one of the ways in which I find the Holy Spirit at work in me is by actively trying to avoid looking at flyers. I don’t need to allow myself to go down that road. I can choose to listen to the Holy Spirit right away, and turn aside from the thing that tempts me, or I can choose to ignore the Holy Spirit, and then face more difficult decisions later.
All in all, it is the process of sanctification. The Holy Spirit works with our spirits. Even our sins can be transformed into good. Does that sound crazy to you? It isn’t really. While we were still sinners, while we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us. Before we could know anything about Christ’s goodness, we had to have the Holy Spirit at work in us, transforming us, changing us from enemies to sons.
But there’s more than just being led by the Holy Spirit to avoid sin.
We’re led by the Holy Spirit so that like Christ, we may show, in all our living, in every facet of our lives, in all our daily duties, we may demonstrate thankfulness to God.
We demonstrate our thankfulness by obedience, Christ like obedience.
Consider the words of Philippians 2:5-11:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Christ was completely obedient.
So, if the Spirit is leading us to be like Christ, then we’re going to be perfectly obedient like Christ was. Parents, doesn’t that sound like music to your ears?
So let me address the children here. Caleb, Hannah, Travis, Jennifer, how’s it going? Are you guys perfectly obedient to your parents? No?
Parents, what do you think?
Okay, kids, let’s go after the parents. So, parents, are you perfectly obedient to your Heavenly Father? No? Why not?
Why, if the Holy Spirit is at work in us, do we fail to obey? Why do we still struggle with Sin?
Especially when we know we’ve died to sin? Why is it still a struggle?
Well, while it is true that we have died to sin, sin hasn’t died. Satan still lives. He still tempts, he still tries to lead us astray with false advertising. And dummies that we are; we still listen. This kind of thing has been going on ever since the Garden of Eden!
One of the things that Satan tries to convince us is stuff like: “You’re only human. You’re just a man. You’re just a woman. You’re just a child. You can’t do that. You’re a sinner. You’re nothing.”
But God speaks differently to us. He says, “You’re created in my image. You’re a man of God. You’re a woman of God. You’re a child of God. You can do that. You’re a saint who bears Christ’s righteousness like clothing. You’re mine!”
So we find that we really are in a battle. That’s exactly how Peter describes it. He says, because you belong to God, you’re no longer of this world, you’re aliens and strangers. Not aliens like beings from another planet, though I’m sure our children sometimes really think we are.
No, alien refers to a foreigner, someone who is in the country but who isn’t a citizen. While I was studying in Grand Rapids, I was a resident alien! No, I didn’t grow two heads or have five eyes while I was there.
Peter calls us aliens and strangers because our citizenship is in heaven! Paul says in Ephesians that we’re already seated with Christ in heaven.
But the world doesn’t think of us in that way. The world frankly can’t comprehend it. They can’t imagine people able to be in two places at the same time. But we are, in the sense that Christ’s human nature, our nature, is still with him. It was raised from the dead, and it ascended. He’ll always have it. And because we know that it is there, we are encouraged, it tells us that we’re going to be there with Christ too!
But because the world can’t see that, doesn’t want to acknowledge that. The world in its confusion will war against us. The world will prey on our desires.
Yes, we still have worldly desires, we still have those same desires that Eve had, that Adam had. We desire to follow our own plan rather than God’s plan. And so we fail, we fall.
Peter desires as warring against our soul! That’s strong language, isn’t it? But that describes the situation well doesn’t it?
The desires of the flesh attack us. It’s not a stroll in the park.
I wonder how this would go for advertising for our church. Come join us in the trenches! It’s war in here! We’re engaged in a battle against the fleshly desires which have declared war on our souls!
It’s kind exciting, in a way, isn’t it? You could draw up some posters like they had in during WWII. Loose lips sink ships. Loose lips sink churches. Uncle Sam wants you. God wants you, and draft or no, He’s gonna get you!
I honestly don’t know how you can soft sell this. There’s a difficult side to being a Christian. Alistair Begg puts it this way, “Jesus died on a cross. The saviour suffered. How can his followers expect anything different?”
Jesus himself said, “If the world hated me, they will hate you also!”
Not only that, but the suffering, the struggles of this life are a part of the curse that came about with the fall. Our job is to tend the earth. But now the earth is going to produce weeds, and the result is no easy planting, easy harvest, but a battle against bugs and weeds and non germinating seeds.
The same thing happens in life. The sower sows the seed and it doesn’t all fall in the good soil. Some lands on the path and the birds eat it before anything can happen. Some falls among the rocks, it grows up quickly for a time, but then it dies off because it doesn’t have deep enough roots. Some falls among thorns and weeds, and the cares and concerns about life choke it out.
But we’re already guaranteed the victory. Yes, we will have many battles and skirmishes. But the war is already won. We’re in the mopping up period. Just as the Nazi’s refused to face reality after D-day, Satan hasn’t figured out that the end is near. He’s still fighting to win.
So we stand up. And we fight. And we live. How do we live?
Ah, here’s the rub. We live such good lives that the pagans, though they hate us, and accuse us of doing wrong, of being bigots, and homophobes, and child beaters, and fanatics and fundamentalists, nevertheless, they’ll see our good deeds. They’ll see our right living, and they will praise God.
Our doing good, really is inevitable. The Holy Spirit will work in us to produce good deeds. But we can’t just sit around and wait. We need to participate with the Holy Spirit.
The results will be amazing. People will notice. People will see that we walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
This past week, I was talking to my neighbour who used to go to church. He stopped going because of the hypocrisy. He thought it was crazy that churches build these huge, expensive and expansive buildings that barely get used, while people’s needs are neglected. He thinks Christians have lost sight of the truth that the body of Christ is the people, the church is you and me, not some building.
And he’s right. It is the people, not the building. How we live and move and have our being in society is going to do more advertising for the faith, than billboards. The question we must ask ourselves is this, “how’s the war going? Am I resisting sinful desires? Am I living a distinctly Christian life such that people take notice of it? Or does my life look nearly identical to the lives of non-Christians around me?”
If people can’t tell, if I can’t tell a difference, then I need to pray, then we need to pray that God will move mightily within us. In this, we will be assured of our faith—if you’re not sure of your faith, then perhaps you’re not challenging yourself to do those good deeds! If I’m not sure of my faith, or of the power of the Holy Spirit, then I’m probably not warring hard enough against my sinful nature. Indeed, I can think of lots of ways in which I need to grow up.
The goal of all this, like we saw this morning, is glory to God. God will get more glory when more people come to know him and give their lives as a sacrifice of praise to him. Let us live such good lives, that our neighbours might be won over to Christ! Amen.