Scripture: 1 Peter 1:22-25
Everything in our lives seems to be changing. Everything in our world seems to be changing. Some changes are for the good, some are not for the good. I read this past week an article from Harper’s Magazine about one attempted change. According to court records filed in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, a 44-year-old man petitioned the court to have his name legally changed to “Boomer the Dog.” In his petition, he stated, “I’ve been known as Boomer the Dog by friends in the community for more than 20 years. I want to bring my legal name in line with that.” The judge denied the name-change request, arguing that it would cause too much confusion. The judge’s decision included the following example: Petitioner witnesses a serious automobile accident and [calls 911]. The dispatcher queries as to the caller’s identity, and the caller responds, “This is Boomer the Dog.” It is not a stretch to imagine the telephone dispatcher concluding that the call is a prank and refusing therefore to send an emergency medical response. I am denying the petitioner’s request. The judge concluded his memorandum by observing, “Although the petitioner apparently wishes it were otherwise, the simple fact remains that he is not a dog.” Changes, or attempts at change, are all around us. Our jobs change. Our take home pay changes. Our children change – they grown up. Our bodies change – they get older. Our schools change. Our parents change. Our nation changes. Our society changes. We look for some kind of safe haven for change, and just when we think we may have found one, it changes.
I enjoy the Reader’s Digest magazine – its been available as long as I can remember. They recently filed for bankruptcy, citing electronic media as the reason for their losses. Kodak was the name to which all of us looked for a camera – we used them for years. They have filed for bankruptcy, not being able to make the transition well from film photography to digital photography. Change is happening all around us, whether we like them or not. We can protest, we can write letters, we can boycott, but the change still comes. Some changes we may slow, some we may reverse, but the tide of change is bigger than we are, and so things continue to change and life in general continues to change. I’ve said on other occasions that I don’t like change. I feel it is necessary and it is a sign of growth, but I don’t like it. I like stability, predictability and reliability. What I realized long ago however, is that my God is a God of change. He won’t leave me alone. He is constantly leading me to grow, to mature, to follow Him in greater and deeper ways. In other words, he is intent on continuing to change me
He won’t leave me alone! So where do we turn for stability, for security, for some sense of sanity in this life of rapid-fire change? We turn to God’s Word. God’s Word is always the same. We can count on it, it is dependable, it is a rock on which to build our lives. When the storms of change howl and the wind and rain of circumstances beat down upon us, we can be steady because of His Word. God’s Word anchors us in our relationship with God. It anchors us in our relationship with others. It anchors us in our perspective of the world around us. God’s Word is a wondrous thing. There are at least three reasons based on passage this morning as to why that is so.
First of all, the Word is wondrous because it proclaims salvation. Verses 23 and 25 of our passage say, “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;…” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” There are two births mentioned here. The first is our physical birth, the birth from perishable seed. The second is our spiritual birth, the birth from imperishable seed. This second birth is salvation, it is being given new life by God. This new life does not end when we die, but it continues throughout all eternity. It is imperishable. This new birth comes through the Word of God. When I stand here in the pulpit and speak, or when a teacher stands and teaches, the most powerful content that can shared is not one based on mere human opinion or academic accomplishment and research. The most powerful, life changing message we can share with others is the Word of God itself. Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” There is life giving power in God’s Word itself. When we share God’s Word with others, or when we hear it ourselves, God uses the Word itself to save. I’ve been listening the autobiography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon on audio book. He was a very popular preacher in England in the mid to late 1800s. He is still called, “the Prince of Preachers.” On one occasion early in his ministry he was in a church sanctuary testing the acoustics of the building. It was something similar to a sound check, except there were no electronics. He was just seeing how his voice would carry in the building for the service that would occur later. He thought the sanctuary was empty and so he quoted John 1:19 loudly, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” There was a young man who was working in the sanctuary, and when he heard those words, the Holy Spirit worked in his life, he went home and prayed, and invited Jesus to save him from his sins. The Word is wondrous because it proclaims salvation. I remember clearly when I was 13 years old and had drifted from walking with Christ. I had been saved at age 6, but through different experiences and temptations, I had wandered far from Jesus and had lost any interest in serving Him. My life was getting darker and darker, and I was even dabbling in the occult. My school work was suffering, and socially I was a total mess. One afternoon after I had skipped school I was taking a shower and listening to a secular radio station. There was a contemporary arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer that began playing. The words to the song were simply the Lord’s Prayer. There was no addition to it, no subtraction to it, it was just the Lord’s Prayer set to music. When I heard that song, God used it to cut like a knife through my hardness and my rebellion and to turn my life back to Him. In that moment God touched me, and transformed me from the way I had been living. It all began through hearing the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”The Word is wondrous because it proclaims salvation. It proclaims salvation from past sin, from present sin, and from future sin.
Then, the Word is wondrous because it provides security. Verses 24 and 25 of our passage say, for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”…. Security is on all of our minds nowadays as Americans. The concern began with the terrorist attack of 9/11. Various incidents since then have heightened our concern for security and safety, while flying, while children are at school, and now while runners are participating in marathons. Next Sunday Jeannie and I plan to run the Pittsburgh Marathon, Lord willing and no injuries occurring between now and then.We received notification this past week of new security measures that are being taken for the race. Now all the participants will receive a large, clear bag the day before the race. On race day, any items taken to the starting line must be in the clear bag. Backpacks, which have been common at races, now aren’t permitted for this race. Even hydration packs and belts will be submit to inspection. A few folks may ask, “Well pastor, aren’t you worried that something may happen?” No, I’m not, not any more than I would be of something happening here at home. Driving from one place to another isn’t secure – some people drive crazy nowadays – it just isn’t safe to drive. Going to a large stadium for a baseball game isn’t secure – there may be some increased security there, but there are still holes in it. Going to a mall isn’t safe – someone could be there with a gun or with a bomb. Going to a restaurant isn’t safe – we could be shot there by a wild gunman, or we might die or get terribly ill from food poisoning. Even being in church isn’t safe – I read a story of grenades being tossed in a Protestant church service in another country and 5 people being killed. There is only one source of perfect, fool-proof security – God and His Word – the two are linked together. God stands behind His Word, so we can count on it, and find perfect security in it. When the hardship happen, when the unexpected strikes, we know that God is still in control, that He is sovereign, above all things. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Listen to Psalm 33:13-21, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” The Word is wondrous because it provides security.
Then, the Word is wondrous because it promotes sanctification. v. 22 of our passage says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” What does sanctification mean? It is a term we may use but not understand. Webster’s online gives the following definition, “The state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.” In this sense sanctification is different than salvation. Salvation is being born again with a new life from God. Sanctification is growing in that new life. It literally means we are more and more set apart to live for God and not for ourselves. As we are more and more set apart for God, we experience more and more of His love for others. Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In other words, people will know you are my disciples not by
- Your Christian t-shirt
- The fish symbol on your car
- Your loyalty to traditional or contemporary Christian music
- Whether you dress up or dress down for church
- Or any other temporal possession or mindset
Your Christian witness is the strongest when you love your brothers and sisters in Christ. We often speak of I Corinthians 13 as the love chapter. It’s frequently read at weddings, referring to the love a husband and wife share. These words however, were written to the local church at Corinth, encouraging the members to love one another. Let’s read quickly through a portion of that chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting the word “I” for the word “love.” See how it fits you.
I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
How did it feel? That twinge of discomfort when you read some of those words was the Holy Spirit speaking to you, letting you know you still have some growing to do. The Word is wondrous, because it promotes sanctification.
Where do you stand this morning in relation to God’s Word? Have you acted on it and given Your life to Christ? Are you believing it and finding security in God? Are you applying it to your life, so you can grow and mature in Jesus? In closing, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-27, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Will the house of your life be based on the wondrous Word of God, or will it be based on something else? The choice is yours.