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For the past five months we have looked at the church: what is the church, the identity of the church, the purpose of the church, why we gather together on Sundays and at midweek Community Group, why we worship. We touched on the two ordinances of the church, baptism and communion. We spent several concentrated weeks on the power and presence of Jesus in His church through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, fills us, leads us, illuminates, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. This is holiness. We defined holiness as being set apart, sanctified or peculiar. We have learned that God’s holiness permeates all that God is and all that He does; it is His otherness. When we become followers of Jesus He gives us His holiness. We are unique in Him and set apart in Him. As we begin to walk with Him our life begins to be shaped into His image or His uniqueness by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus places inside of us. Our uniqueness is not in our moral code or behavior but flows from our new hearts that beat in rhythm with Jesus.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The Spirit works within and transforms us from one degree of glory to the next. As we walk in holiness, we start to look more like Jesus. When Christ declared, “It is finished,” the veil in the temple separating the holy of holies from the common area or unholy place was torn. Before that moment no one dared go behind that curtain into the presence of God except the high priest who represented all the people once a year. He entered only after extensive washings, sacrifices and separation from all others and even then it was with great fear.
When the veil was torn, God was saying, “Come to me, you are holy through Jesus.” Jesus paid it all. We now walk in the holy presence of God gaining access through our Savior Jesus. As we look at His glory, the Spirit works in our lives to transform us into the same image. The process of holiness takes place individually and corporately. We are saved into a Body, the church, the bride of Christ, the family of God.
In Jesus we have been given a new race (not Jew or Gentile) and a new position. We are now a royal priesthood with a new citizenship; we belong to a holy nation. We live in America but our citizenship is in heaven, under new ownership. We are God’s possession with a new mission to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
Remedy, we were not a people. We were individually children of wrath, following the father of lies. But God has made us a people because of His mercy and we belong to a Body, the Church. We are saved personally and individually but not to be independent or individualistic. We are saved into the Church as a group of people who are interdependent on one another to function fully as God intended.
We need one another to encourage, to exhort, and to pray for our personal growth with Jesus and fulfillment of our mission. On a micro level, we are called out and into a family, the bride of Christ. On a macro level, this relates to the nations. Christians in the U.S. are needed by Christians who live across the world, like in Iraq.
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
Persecuted believers worldwide remind us of the suffering of Christ. As they represent Him and minister in His name, they suffer for Him () and continue to demonstrate His love and sacrifice. They are a part of our mission.
As believers, we have been made new in Jesus. We are not who we once were, so we need to stop giving into the mindsets and desire of the world (and the past) and start acting like a part of a Body. If we want to develop a sense of belonging and experience all that God has for us, then we give! We give our lives to Jesus, to His Body, because that is what He did for us on the cross. The church doesn’t exist for us, it exists for Jesus.
Peter takes the time to contrast who we were and who we are now. He reminds us what we have been saved from and what we have been saved into. BUT YOU… are new and different, a holy nation. BUT YOU are a royal priesthood, BUT YOU are a chosen people. When we think of old and new, we often think of behavior issues like drunkenness or greed or anger or jealously but we’ve also been saved out of our moral striving. We’ve been saved from self-sufficiency and self-reliance, many of the things the world looks favorably upon. This is where most of us struggle. We fall back into thinking, “I’m not so bad” or “I was a good person.” We forget how much we need God. We need Jesus and we can’t do it on our own.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,…I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul said that he forgot everything that was behind him and set his eyes on Jesus, to be like Him. He said it was all nothing compared to Jesus. We’ve been called out of darkness into life. God didn’t save us out of hell into nothing; He saved us into relationship.
The people of Israel were slaves to Egypt, in bondage for over 400 years. They worked long days with little food, and at one point, Pharaoh ordered all of the firstborn sons to be killed to control the population. They cried out to God and God heard them – He told Moses that He saw their affliction, heard their cries, and understood their suffering (). God sent a deliverer, Moses, and He delivered them from bondage in a great display of power and love. His deliverance was a great display of grace and He gave them more than they could even grasp – He split the sea and provided manna from heaven.
The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
Israel forgot the bondage, the suffering, and God’s delivery. God set them free and provided for their every need, but they wanted more. They falsely remembered a life of bounty, of fish and meat. Their flesh deceived them, just as our flesh deceives us.
The manna God provided met their needs, but Israel thought they deserved more, that they were entitled to more. They also didn’t want to depend on God. The root of both of these attitudes was pride. Israel lost sight of what God called them out of and what He was calling them into. He was making them a nation and leading them to the land He had promised. All Israel had to do was follow God into the Promised Land, but instead they died complaining in the wilderness.
We are the church, the Bride of Christ, children of God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, God’s people, chosen, called, empowered, indwelt by the Spirit of God
Himself to proclaim the greatest news in the history of mankind. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, to make a way, when there was no other way. So how do we want to live? We can live in captivity, carnality, or consecration.
Captivity – Living in captivity means returning to our “Egypt”. If we think our days of bondage to sin were better, then we have not tasted the manna of life, Jesus, who meets our deepest hunger and quenches our driest thirst.
Carnality – Living in carnality is a life wandering in the wilderness. Do we struggle to depend on God? Are we discontent with His provision? Do we misremember the past as better than it was? If we look back to Egypt, it will rob us of joy. Lot’s wife turned back toward Sodom and turned to a pillar of salt (). She turned back because that’s where her heart and affection was.
Consecration – Living a consecrated life means understanding that we are on our way to the Promised Land, with our eyes on Jesus. Do we want to live as a child of God, a holy people, set apart for the most significant mission today, to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light?There are no politics, no amount of money or goodwill to stop the evil in this world but there is the love of God. Against the love of God there is no law, meaning nothing can stand against Him. While the world frets and stirs and worry we proclaim the amazing love of God.
How are we living? Are we giving our time, resources, gifts and thoughts to the advancement of God’s kingdom as an ambassador, a royal priest, as a child of God? Or are we chasing the desires of our flesh, hoping to quiet the conflict in our heart while the world crumbles around us, families fall apart, kids are abused, and good intentioned people walk off the cliff following self-righteous religion? Are we willing to watch our brothers and sisters suffer and die in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Somalia, Myanmar, without a thought, a prayer, a hand?
• An abundant life
• Joy overflowing
• Contentment in all circumstances
• Peace that surpasses understanding
• Love, real love, perfect love that casts out fear, never-ending love
• If we follow Him. If we walk in who He has made us, who He redeemed us to be.
If we aren’t experiencing what God has promised, then we aren’t following Him. There is no neutral. Revelation contains seven letters to the churches, where God commends and rebukes:
To the Church in Laodicea
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
This church had lost its dependency on Jesus. This church had lost its understanding of the great need they had spiritually. They believed they had it together, but they weren’t useful in the kingdom of God. They weren’t hot, bringing warmth, or cold, bringing refreshment; they were lukewarm, worthy only to be spit out.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock” was written to a church, to Remedy, to stop being complacent and apathetic. God is saying to stop being middle of the road and lukewarm, or He will spit us out of His mouth. His message is in love – because He loves, He is saying, “Take heed! Listen up! I love you, this is why I’m saying this to you.” God is knocking; it’s not too late. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This is God’s invitation to us today.
Together we walk into the promises of Christ and become the church He designed us to be, and we experience all the things God has designed the church to do and be, and He is glorified, and many will come to know Him. All this is done in Christ and Him alone.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” 3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.
12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”