How Much Time Do We Have for Christ?

If a relationship between two people is going to grow, they must have time for each other. This is true for a husband and wife, parents and children and close friends.

If a relationship between Jesus Christ and a person is going to be personal and growing, they must have time for each other. This leads to the question raised by our text, How much time do we have for Jesus Christ?

Jesus taught us, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:5). In other words, just as we have been physically born, so we must also be spiritually born. Now Peter writes to the Christians, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

Let’s review the picture that we have seen so many Sunday mornings. Parents bring their child to the baptismal font where that child is born into the Christian faith. Just as the parents take the child home to be raised, they are reminded that the child must also be raised in the teachings of God’s Word where they will learn that God has created them in His image. The Lord Jesus suffered and died for their sins so that when they walk away from Him, they might be forgiven and brought back into a personal relationship with Him.

When those youth grow up, they must take responsibility for their own spiritual growth. We must face the fact that many of our young people get too busy and have little time for God. Their schedule doesn’t include a quiet time with the Lord on a daily basis, and after a busy Saturday evening spent socializing, the thought of attending worship service is not very appealing. Soon many of them drift away. Spending time alone with God is a must in order for the relationship with Him to grow.

When we marry and have a family, life becomes more hectic. It takes discipline and a lot of planning for us, as adults, to have time alone with God. Some biographers tell us that Lincoln placed his time for meditation and prayer as top priority on his schedule. Some even show a picture of his little son, Thad, going into Lincoln’s office and finding the President on his knees in prayer.

Whether it is the President of the United States or the cleaning lady, each person needs time with God in His Word if their relationship will continue to be personal.

Someone could have asked Peter what he meant in our text about that growing relationship with God. In verse one the Apostle writes, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and gossip of every kind.”

It’s interesting that even 2,000 years ago Christians were fighting some of the same sins that we are fighting today. Now think about this setting in our lives. It is time for us to be alone with God in His Word.

Deceit This word means to be two-faced, out to deceive others. If you try to win the favor of a person, it might be quite beneficial to play a double-hand in order to present yourself as something you really are not. Could your wife ever say, “My husband is a real charmer. It took me a long time to really know him.” Then you ask yourself if that is how others see you or are you a person they can count on to be true blue? Maybe you and God should spend time working on that weakness.

Hypocrisy This sin is often related to the church. Haven’t you heard people talk about Christians being hypocrites Ð acting one way on Sunday and another way on Monday? The hypocrite uses his tongue to pray on Sunday and curse on Monday.

How do our children see us? Do we profess to be something that we are not?

Envy William Barclay writes, “It may be said that envy is the last sin to die.” As long as self remains active within a man’s heart, there will be envy. We do not have to be engaged in church work very long to discover what perennial source of trouble envy is.

Gossip Everyone admits it is wrong, but we still seem to enjoy it.

How can I gain victory over some of these sins?

Christians who have been given the new birth must also grow. We mature by letting God work in us through his Word. The same truth that gave us birth also nourishes us. The Christian needs to be addicted to the Bible.

This is not just moralizing. It is letting God take over in our lives to make us new people in Christ. Give God some of your time and he will make you a new person.

God’s Word Is Creative

Imagine an hour alone with St. Peter. You go to your quiet room and let him speak to you. The conversation begins by you asking, “Peter, in your years of ministry, what was your greatest source of power in building God’s Kingdom?”

Peter replies without hesitation, “The Law and Gospel were our only power in bringing people to a living faith in Christ, our Savior and Lord. One of my best examples of this would be to point you back to Pentecost Sunday.

“You will recall from the story recorded in Acts 2 that there were many people in Jerusalem on that day. They were Jewish people from all over the world celebrating one of their holidays. We disciples began to speak in strange languages so that each one heard the message in his own tongue. The people wanted to know what was happening. Some made fun of them and said, ÔThey have had too much wine.’

“Then I stood up and said to the crowd, ÔThey are not drunk. Let me tell you visitors to Jerusalem what happened fifty days ago. This man, named Jesus, was handed over to the scribes and Pharisees by Pontius Pilate. Then, after an unfair trial, with the help of wicked men, they put Jesus to death by nailing him to a cross. However, God raised Him from the dead, for it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.’

“ÔHe is exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus has poured out on us now.’

“When these people heard my sermon they asked, ÔWhat shall we do?’ and I replied, ÔRepent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Save yourself from this crooked generation.’ And about 3,000 were baptized.

“This is an example of the power of God’s Word. The Word has power within it to turn your life around.

“It is the Word of God that builds Christ’s Church in every age and among all kinds of people. Look at some of the great examples you have in your own country. That is why I called your attention to the Prophet Isaiah’s great book.

“ÔAll men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the

grass of the field;

The grass withers and

flowers fall,

but the Word of the Lord

abides forever.'”

With these closing words, Peter left you alone to think about the power of God’s Word in your life and the lives of others.

It is that Word that has taught me that I am created in God’s image. The Word taught me that, when I sinned, I was separated from God, but my Father sent His Son to die for me, and when I trust Jesus as my Savior, I am forgiven and enter into a personal relationship with my Creator.

I never get the full meaning of this relationship, but is glorious just to sit alone in Christ’s presence. And it was also exciting to see how God had used the talents of others in building the Kingdom.

One day I had the experience of visiting the F. Melius Christianson compound in Door County, Wisconsin. As I walked over this beautiful piece of property with the granddaughter of this famous musician, she shared with me some of her memories. Then we came to a building where Christianson did much of his work. I asked her if this might be the very place where he wrote his arrangement of the great anthem, Beautiful Savior. She replied that it could well be on that very spot God inspired him to do this great work which has changed the lives of thousands of people.

God’s Word has a creative power.

Here is another personal example. One of our grandsons works in Chicago. He often worship often at the Moody Bible Church. This is the church where Dwight L. Moody preached for many years and hundreds of people came to know Christ after listening to his sermons. Tim, my grandson, told me that the Word of God is still preached there each Sunday by another powerful preacher, Erwin Leuthser. It is one place you can go in Chicago where the Gospel can reach out and touch you. Just sitting there in this worship service is an experience.

It is that Word that is the power of the Church.

One of my prayers is then, when pointing to our church building in Cedar Falls, people will know that this is a place where they can go to hear the story of Jesus Christ. It is where thousands of people have met Him as their Savior and Lord.

When we see what God’s Word has done, and is doing, in the lives of so many people, it is sad to see what people attempt to do to this Word to make it more acceptable to our culture, which is here today and gone tomorrow.

St. Peter says, “The Word of the Lord stands forever.”

Deny this truth and the Church will cease to be the Church.

Trust and Obey

John Sammis’ gospel hymn, Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey, summarizes our text today. This text brings out two strong thoughts: One of encouragement and one of challenge.

God loves us is a reassuring thought. It encourages the Christian. God assures us that he walks with us through life and assures us of a heavenly home when we are no longer citizens of this planet.

But these words of encouragement are also applicable to the unbelievers in our communities. God is pleading with those who do not claim him as their Savior. Although the day of grace will end some day, it has not ended yet. He still speaks to us. Christ died for us. In his death and resurrection, Jesus paid the price for our sins. All that is left for us to do in order to have a personal relationship with God is to invite Christ into our life.

Now comes the challenging part of the text: God not only tells us what he has done for us, he also makes it clear that he wants us to live as his obedient children. This is a challenge for us as we walk through this world that is filled with temptations that are contrary to God’s will. Peters says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” We are to live as strangers in this world.

People who yet have to become Christian often ask, “Do you mean that all I have to do is accept Christ, and then I can hang on to these sins that are present in my life?”

The answer is clear, “Just as God is holy, so be holy.” Let me illustrate.

Not all of our sins will be overcome in this life. However, our attitude toward these old sins will be different when we conform our life to God’s will. Once, a new convert became a member of the ushering staff at our church. It was a Sunday morning and the new usher explained to an elderly lady that the church was packed with worshipers. The lady, who had a hearing loss, defied what he said and started to enter the sanctuary. The usher tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Lady, there are no seats in the sanctuary, but it you want to make a damn fool out of yourself, just go and see for yourself.”

That Sunday afternoon the elderly lady called me and said that the usher had treated her quite improperly. I expressed my concern and told her a bit about the usher. This person had little education. He had not been raised in the church and had little knowledge of proper behavior for an usher. In the midst of my explanation, the dear old lady said, “I understand. I am so happy that he is in church. We all have our troubles battling those old sins.”

Only a few weeks later I had coffee with that usher and thought the setting was right to tell him about swearing at the lady. He recalled her insistence on going into the sanctuary. However, since profanity had been such a part of his vocabulary, he did not recall using it on that Sunday. Then he replied, “Cleaning up my language is one of my greatest difficulties since becoming a Christian. But I am working on it.”

Well, I doubt that he got the job completely done because only a short time later he suffered a heart attack and died. But this I know, he died fighting his sin. God grant that I may do the same.

No, we do not delight in our sins. However, we ask God to forgive us and be merciful to us in our struggles.

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do . . .” (vs. 14-15).

Our text also tells us to have a sincere love for your brothers. “Love one another deeply from the heart.” What does this mean? Certainly it means that we will be kind each other. If we can assist our brother or sister in any way, it will be our desire to do so. But it is the adverb “deeply” that catches my eye.

Could it be that a brother has all the necessities of life according to worldly standards, but is living without Christ? He has no relationship with the Lord. If Christ is the only way to heaven, which he is, and that brother should die today, according to the Word he would not be saved. Is it really loving one another to let one year go by after another without talking to this brother about his relationship with the Lord? We humans cannot bring anyone to faith. However, loving others sincerely means telling them what the Lord has done for us.

I close this sermon with an old deacon’s prayer that was used in our church when I was a little boy and remains with me today.

When the service was over, the deacon stood before us and prayed,

“Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you, that of your great mercy, you have given us your holy and blessed Word, by which you do also gather your Church. We humbly ask you, grant us your Holy Spirit that we may receive your Word with thankful hearts, live according to your Word, and at last obtain eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

How true the song is, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Living with Christian Hope

Like millions of Americans, I have a cell phone. However, I do not really know how to use it. It’s a handy little possession. I can make calls and receive calls. I can call home and learn if my wife is all right, and she knows where she can always contact me. But that is about the extent of my use of the cell phone. And, to be honest, that is all I care to know about it.

That is the way many people feel about the Christian faith. They know some teachings of the Christian faith, such as Jesus was born in Bethlehem, died on a cross, and was raised from the grave. They know He taught that we were to love one another and do unto others as we would have them do to us. But that is as far as they want to become involved with Christ.

Why do I begin this sermon by comparing my cell phone with the Christian faith? During the next few weeks we will by studying the first book of Peter. Just as I am not interested in studying a book written on the details of the cell phone, sad to say many unbelievers couldn’t care less about what is written in the book of I Peter.

The first verses of this chapter tell us to whom the book was written: “To God’s elect . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.”

Therefore, the purpose of these sermons will be to help Christians see what God has done for us through his Son and the joyous life he has given to those of us who are his children. We also pray the Holy Spirit will use these words to help show those who have yet to become Christians what treasures can be theirs both now and in eternity when Christ Jesus lives in their hearts.

No matter how difficult life can sometimes be, Peter reminds us that in his (God’s) great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade Ð kept in heaven for (us). This gives us a security that will never leave us.

We may have to suffer many troubles. Peter had his trials and finally died as a martyr for Christ. Yet, through it all, the living hope established in the resurrection of Jesus Christ never failed him. People in every age live with this same hope.

I recently visited with a friend who was a gifted surgeon until cancer invaded his right arm and shoulder making an amputation necessary. His wife has dementia, which makes it impossible for them to have a meaningful conversation. A son in his early 50s, who was also a surgeon, died of cancer. Another son, who was a surgeon, had an accident that caused other problems. I asked him, “How’s it going?” His reply was, “Sometimes it gets heavy, but I am a Christian. Christ is with me, and one day I am going to heaven.” This is an example of living with Christian hope.

The Holy Spirit creates and strengthens this living hope in us as we live daily with our Savior in His Word and prayer. It does not come to us simply by joining a church and yet remaining distant for fear that it will alter our lifestyle. Living with Christian hope means turning our life over to Jesus. Sometimes this living faith makes it impossible for us to walk in the way of the Word and, as a consequence, watch some of our relatives and friends walk away from us. This can be one of our trials.

When our Christianity grows from simply knowing about Christ to knowing him in a personal way, we live with Christian hope.

So Peter, in the first chapter in his book, confronts us with an important question: Do you have this living hope? If you do, then you know what Peter is talking about. If you feel that a little religion is fine, but it is best to be moderate in all you do in life, then you are not interested in becoming involved in religion. All your security comes from blessings that will eventually prove to be inadequate. Is that really the way you feel?

Think about what you are missing in life without this Christian hope.