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All For You
October 19, 1997

1 PETER 1:10-12

"O how marvelous! O how wonderful! And my song shall ever be;

O how marvelous! O how wonderful is my Savior's love for me."

"I stand amazed," wrote the hymn writer, Charles Gabriel,

"O how marvelous! O how wonderful is my Savior's love for me."

We are working our way through the letter called 1 Peter. Today we move to the third paragraph of chapter one, verses 10-12. In this paragraph, Peter celebrates our salvation. Salvation is the major theme of the letter. It is their salvation that gives them hope for the future, as they wait for their inheritance. It is their salvation that gives them courage to face horrible persecution. It is their salvation they are already receiving that gives them indescribable and glorious joy.

What is salvation? Salvation is not only the major theme of Peter's letter, but salvation is at the heart of the Christian faith. Peter likes to use the word salvation in this letter, but there are several other biblical words that mean the same as salvation: redemption, deliverance, pardon, ransom, forgiveness, atonement, reconciliation, expiation, new birth, born again, born anew. All of these words essentially mean the same as salvation.

What is salvation? What do all these words mean? Salvation is a personal relationship between you and God in which you are transformed, like being born anew. Salvation is a relationship with God that culminates in the heavenly inheritance, and begins now with a transformed life. That's it! Sounds simple, but in practice it is difficult to enter into relationship with God because of all the stuff that is in the way. It is utterly amazing what we humans do to ourselves. God has done his part. Whatever it took and takes to get through our stuff, God did. Jesus paid it all. Don't ask what and how Jesus paid. That is a long, controversial discussion. Suffice it to say that whatever it took, Jesus did it. God entered history through Jesus, and God enters your life through Jesus. Eternity intersects with time. And when eternity intersects time, there is a cross. In verse 11, Peter uses an interesting phrase, "sufferings destined for Christ." Christ's suffering was destined? The cross was destined?

Some are bothered by the notion that our salvation cost Jesus his life. Did Jesus really have to suffer, shed his blood, and die? A minister colleague from another city told me he was picking up visitors from another church because their pastor did not believe that the suffering and blood of Jesus were necessary for salvation. A major denomination recently released a new hymnal that has omitted most of the references to blood! Many are offended by suffering, blood and pain, as if the death of Jesus belongs to some barbarian, primitive religion. We are so sophisticated today we don't like to come to church to be reminded of suffering and blood!

But, have you ever entered into a deep relationship with another person that did not involve pain and suffering? Have you ever seen a marriage that was more than a marriage of convenience that didn't involve pain and suffering? When you are serious about sharing your life with another person, pain is involved. Tears. Why? Because of all the stuff! Hangups, personality conflicts, greed, selfishness, ego, pride, hurt feelings, feeling abused, taken advantage of, disagreement about goals. The list goes on and on. The #1 cause of divorce is conflict over money! Fighting over things! We all carry a lot of stuff around with us that gets in the way of relationship. The biblical word for what I am calling stuff is sin.

Whenever two lives enter into relationship, a cross of some type is formed. To work through the conflicts, to work through the stuff with pain and suffering, is to achieve a relationship that is enduring, loving, heavenly! In fact, true love comes when we are willing to suffer for one another, to put up with the other's stuff because of our love for her/him.

Likewise, when eternity intersects time, a cross is formed. For God to enter into relationship with us cost Jesus pain and suffering. Jesus paid it all, and willingly took on the cross all for you! Look at the stuff in your life that is in the way between you and God: habits, ego needs, over-concern with trivialities and pettiness, ugly pride, downright selfishness, self-pity, silly prejudices, childish intolerance, bad temper, fear.

Salvation occurs when you let God break through your stuff, when you accept the gift of God's love for you, and give up the stuff. Reconciliation with God, a new relationship with God transforms your life. In 1:18, Peter uses the word ransomed, "ransomed from the futile ways." Look at the futile ways many of us use to run our lives. We think if we are rich, or beautiful, or successful, or respected, or busy, or powerful, or sexy, or popular, we'll be happy! Futile!

Jesus ransoms us from the futile ways, frees us from the bondage of habits and old replays of the tapes in our head, and forms a relationship with us. A personal relationship with God where we know we have been chosen, destined and sanctified, given a new birth into a living hope and an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, but which we are also receiving now; a relationship in which God uses trials to purify us, and then fills us with an indescribable and glorious joy! "Oh, how marvelous! Oh, how wonderful is my Savior's love for me."

What a salvation! What a wonderful letter is this letter of 1 Peter! Peter encourages his readers to celebrate their salvation. He reminds them, vs 10-12, that the prophets, our ancestors in the faith, made careful search and inquiry, but never experienced the joy of knowing Jesus. The prophets depicted something grander than they had ever experienced. Now, we, through Christ, experience what they only longed for.

Not only do Christians experience what the prophets foretold, but our salvation is an experience angels will never understand. Look at the last phrase of verse 12, "things into which angels long to look!" Picture the angels, heavenly beings, surrounding God's throne singing and praising. Picture their silence when we sing about Jesus and our salvation! The angels long to look and understand, but they've never experienced salvation! The hymn writer captured it,

And when I sing redemption's story,

they will fold their wings.

For angels never felt the joy

that our salvation brings.

I suspect there are some here this morning who don't have the foggiest clue what I am talking about. You are like the angels, looking on but not understanding. Some of you were transformed so long ago, you've forgotten what you were like before. You've forgotten what is to be without salvation. You have taken your relationship with God for granted, and have lost the excitement. When I was in college, I was pastor of two churches. Several of my members gave me advice, "When you go to seminary, don't lose your fire!" Do you know what they meant? Yes, too many clergy have lost the wonder, the amazement of our salvation! Is it coincidental that 2/3 of the senior pastors of the largest churches in the world are not seminary graduates? Can you rekindle the fire you once had and regain the wonder of your salvation?

A botanist journeyed from the University of Scotland into the lovely highlands. He left the train, walked up the hillside, and made his way to a lonely slope. With magnifying glass in hand he fell upon his knees and through it in the bright sunlight looked intently at a bit of heather. He gazed upon the fragile flower and reveled in its delicacy, its beauty, its glory. Then a cloud came over the glass. He looked up to find a shepherd looking to see what he was doing. The scientist invited the shepherd to look through the magnifying glass. For the first time he saw through a magnifying glass the delicate beauty of the heather. Tears ran down his cheeks as he said, "Man, I am sorry you showed me this. Just think that these rude feet of mine have trod so much of it in the ground!" He had taken heather for granted.

Some of you were raised in Christian homes and in the church. You were reared in salvation and don't know anything else. You don't know what it is to be lost, you don't know what it's like not to be in relationship with Christ. From one perspective, you are blessed to be reared as a Christian. From another perspective, you are at a disadvantage because you have not experienced the mercy and the grace of God. However, I suspect that even you who were raised Christians deep down know you've got some stuff that interferes with your relationship, and that perhaps your relationship is not as wonder-full as it might be. Can you gain a sense of wonder of your salvation?

One way to get excited about salvation is to get beyond the walls of our comfortable church and do, not church work, but the work of the church. Become involved with people in our community who desperately need salvation. Become concerned about the children in our neighborhood who go home every day to an empty house. Talk to families who are in trouble and who are trying to develop relationships without Christ. Look at the gangs of youth struggling for identity by using futile ways. Realize how desperately people need to know the Jesus you take for granted! Get on fire! Be not only compassionate, but passionate. We have a salvation to proclaim.

Some of you here this morning are not in relationship with God. Perhaps for the first time you are hearing the good news. You are learning that God wants to be in relationship with you, and how you have been letting stuff get in the way. Consider the lengths to which Jesus went for your salvation. Oh, how much you are loved, how much God wants to enter into relationship with you to be your Savior, your friend, your guide. Oh, how much the Lord wants you to serve him, to do something significant with the life you have been given, to bring salvation to the world.

"Oh, how marvelous! Oh, how wonderful is my Savior's love for me."

© 1997 Douglas I. Norris