Good morning to each and to all! Just for this morning I won't recite our litany of names, but I will observe that my own dad, some decades ago, remarked that the morning “June gloom” departs about the 4th of July and summer really starts. So far it looks like this year that date will hold true!
The early morning video message with Pastor Bryan started our Bethel Church KM adults this morning with the Apostle Peter's first letter. As you will notice in a moment, this letter was intended to be read in congregations of believers (perhaps at that time more like overgrown cell churches, really) throughout what is today western Turkey. I am inspired to bring this up because right away in his letter the Apostle Peter centers on “genuine faith”, just like Pastor John is doing right now:
1 Peter 1:1-8 (NIV) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and (now read this next part as if it were highlighted in yellow):
“into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,”
genuineness of faith! Greater worth than perishable refined gold! And what is the reward for sticking with your faith through thick and thin? “ praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” Wow!
Had Peter been an Irvine Unified School District school boy before he took up commercial fishing with his brother, I doubt that he, (quite unlike many of you!), would ever have won any awards for being a star pupil. He didn't have a Korean mom. Yet through his time with Jesus, and then through Pentacost, he became the amazing person who could write such a letter.
Now, last Lord's Day Pastor John started out by reading from the Apostle John's first letter:
1 John 4:7-12 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Pastor John wants us to check ourselves and our faith to see if it is genuine. He does not suggest this to scare us but just to get us to check ourselves the same as we would if we look into a mirror before stepping out into public view. Looking into a mirror should not be a cause for despair, but just a means to check ourselves so we can adjust ourselves accordingly.
Pastor John noted that our human kind of love is naturally conditional, in that it depends on petty considerations; conventional, because we like reciprocity, and comfortable, because we love when we feel like it.
By contrast God's love is unconditional; He loves His faithful children even when due to their sinful natures they fall down during their travels on the road of sanctification. It is like how Pastor John loves his baby son Elliot no matter how often Elliot soils his diapers! Also, God's love is unconventional. Pastor John had us read Matthew 5 verse 44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” That idea of love could not have come from a human being, just as Pastor John pointed out.
Finally, God's love is uncomfortable. We read these famous verses from 1 Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
That DOES take us out of our comfort zone.
When we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit because of our prayers and we come to have love like that, we are living out the genuine faith that the Apostle Peter wrote about.
Check your faith in the mirror?