Battle Stationsby Ed de la Cour on September 29, 2014
1 Peter 1: 13 – 25 “BATTLE STATIONS” 9/28/14
No matter what you might think, I really do not preach sermons directed to specific people. The Holy Spirit’s job is to direct the message to the heart of the listener and that’s not my job. Today, however, I do want to speak directly to the one being baptized because you need this message. It is my prayer that everyone else will listen in and receive what I am saying because you also need to receive what the Lord would say to you through His Word.
After many years in ministry, it has been my experience that obedience to the Lord always brings opposition from the enemy of our souls. The devil wants to discourage God’s people, so we take notice that spiritual warfare kicks up significantly when obedience to God is afoot.
Peter’s epistle gives us an example of a pastor whose heart’s desire is to see those he loves“grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” No doubt, Peter had also seen the devil’s handiwork manifested as believers, both young and old, had their faith beaten down, their hearts discouraged, and their hopes derailed. That is why this section begins with three strong admonitions.
First, Peter says, “Therefore.” When studying the Bible, always ask, what’s the therefore there for? The word points us in the direction of an answer to a presenting problem. In this case, Peter has just taught that we live and serve those who will come after us. The world does not revolve around me. Instead, everything revolves around the word of truth, the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. It is just that important.
Therefore, Peter brings these strong admonitions in verse 13: “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” The first admonition is the idea of sounding battle stations. It is a call to action. It’s a dramatic warning shot that you dare not ignore. In the language of the Old Testament, “gird up your loins.” That means tuck in your shirt, tighten your belt, and get ready to rumble. From the way we look at things, we just don’t feel the need. We think the problem is over-exaggerated. We stomp our feet and cry, “But I don’t wanna!” That kind of peevishness will get a soldier killed in real life combat. It’s an obstinate, stubborn refusal to brace for impact, to gear up and be ready for action. That’s why I am sounding the alarm today. I’m shouting, “Battle stations! General quarters! Get ready to fight!” I especially want you to take this message to heart.
You and I need to have our minds and hearts in gear, to prepare our minds for action. Being self-controlled means we are not spiritual anarchists. We are not doing whatever happens to feel good at the moment. Therefore, you have to learn to have spiritual situational awareness. Just as you are especially aware of your surroundings when you walk in a city at night, or cross a busy street, or drive on a crowded highway, the prepared mind means you will become aware of the presence and the strategy of the opposing force.
Having our hope set fully on the grace God has given to us means we will employ the spiritual disciplines God has prepared for us use in order to grow to maturity. You will learn how to pray, how to seek God for yourself, and not to depend on others to do the seeking and the praying for you.
You will take steps to become spiritually mature. Maturity is a precious jewel, one that is frequently ignored in favor or wallowing in self-gratification. So, how does maturity happen? When those three admonitions are taken to heart, spiritual disciplines are being practiced. We don’t like discipline and we don’t enjoy discipline of any sort, but it is a simple truth that discipline is lifesaving. Spiritual disciplines strengthen the mind and encourage the heart. They are calisthenics for the soul. Many of us have already accepted the challenge of reading the Bible through in a year. Now, take the Bible reading you are doing and begin to think deeply about one or two of the verses you’ve read. You are not reading for speed and distance now; instead, you are taking time with the Word. When you are alert, at the ready, at battle stations, ask God to show you what is He saying to you personally. How does this word apply to my life, Lord?
Fourteen pastors here on Cape Cod have decided to fast one day each week and I have joined them. We are fasting and praying together specifically that God would move in power in this region, that God would bring the manifestation of God’s glory to Cape Cod. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, and it’s one I have never enjoyed, but God is a grace giving God! In answer to my prayer, God is giving me grace to fast one day each week and the grace to pray more deeply. God will give you whatever grace you need to engage in the disciplines of the Spirit. God knows we need discipline! We are never going to rise to the level of maturity to which God is calling us without discipline.
Along with reading the Bible, I encourage you – I challenge you – to fast each Tuesday for revival on Cape Cod. Join us! Use your meal times on that day to seek God’s face and ask Him to move in your life, in your family, in your neighborhood, throughout Cape Cod, and especially for God to move in our church. Oh, God, we need You to lead our church to become a Spirit-filled, God-seeking, and obedient church. God is calling us to battle stations, to that place of heightened spiritual awareness. Let me know if God speaks to you about this and you decide to obey Him.
In fact, this would be a great time to encourage you to take part in the monthly Glory of God on Cape Cod prayer meetings. These meetings are extraordinary in that churches of all shapes and sizes are coming together in the unity of the Spirit, to seek God’s face. You are missing out on what God is doing each month at these meetings if you are staying home.
Verse 14: Peter says it is far too easy for us to conform to the normal worldly way of life we’ve grown used to over the years. When we live that way, we are living life the way everyone lives it, life as we’ve always known it, unchallenged, and without a sense of God’s presence. We are agreeing with the world’s attitudes and priorities. We just go along with the ways of this world that flow all around us. That’s why Peter cautioned us against conforming to evil desires. You and I spent years of our lives literally studying sin and attuning our lives to the evil desires we enjoyed. We lived our whole lives that way up to now! But that was then. That was during, not the good old days, but the bad old days, when we lived in what Peter calls ignorance, but we are not ignorant anymore! As opposed to those days, today we know Jesus. Today we know God’s love for us, today we know the lengths to which He went to secure our salvation, and we know His call on our lives.
Because God has worked and you have confessed Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are now in an eternal relationship with Him and, as such, you and I are accountable to Him. There is no escaping from duties of a relationship with God, just as you cannot escape the duties of your marriage or your job. There’s no acceptable running away from what the Word of God plainly teaches because in Peter says in verse 15, Jesus, your Savior, your Lord and Master, calls you to be holy.
Holiness is fruit. Holiness is being like Jesus. That fruit arises out of the disciplines of the Christian life. Holiness certainly does not come to us naturally nor does holiness arrive in the Christian’s life as if by magic. As you read His Word, as you meditate upon the Word, as you fast, as you dedicate yourself to spend time with Jesus, you actually begin to desire the presence of God.
As a caveat, don’t seek holiness because you think God will make you happy. Holiness has to do with me pleasing God and it has nothing at all to do with any notion of God making me happy. Why then should I have a desire to be holy? God says, verse 16: “Be holy, because I am holy.” The reason we are to seek holiness is because God is holy, because we love Him, and because we desire to be obedient to God. When I am close to God, when I am listening to God and rejoicing in all God has done for me, that is the moment when I desire Him and I want to be like Jesus. The devil won’t appreciate your desire to follow Jesus and walk in holiness. That’s why you need to listen to God calling you to be aware of your spiritual situation, and come to battle stations.
Living as a Christian means placing my life under the authority of God. Because God is my Judge, I am no longer to be enamored by the power of this world. This world has always been and is now a seducer of people who want to walk with God. This world offers every enticement to draw me away so that I will throw away my birthright, or act as though the blood of Jesus means nothing. Peter says we are to live our “lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Anyone who sees the reality of life here will walk through life on tiptoes because of the dangers that surround us. The Bible says we are sojourners. In the words of Dr. Jones in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “My boy, we are pilgrims in an unholy land.” We are like undocumented aliens. We don’t belong here. We are strangers in a strange land. Our passport says we are citizens of heaven.
We are citizens of heaven so we are not tied to this world. Part of the reason why spiritual disciplines are so important is that they help wean us away from being bound to this world. That is never more clearly seen than in verse 18: “It was not with perishable things such as gold and silver that you were redeemed.” You know we are constantly bombarded by commercials to increase our holdings in precious metals: “What’s in your safe? Buy gold and silver!” We reason gold and silver will survive if the economy crashes. How foolish we are! From God’s perspective, gold and silver are as perishable as paper and have no more power to endure than dollars or Deutschmarks. In the values of the Kingdom of God, gold is nothing. The world promotes an allegiance to this life that sure does look good, but is ultimately empty. To believe the commercials are false and to hold onto Jesus is completely counterintuitive, yet it is the course correction I am encouraging you to make.
Hold onto Jesus. If you forget everything else, if all of your life falls apart, remember you have been born again by the blood of Jesus shed for you, and by the power of God. You were bought back from hell. You were redeemed from the grave by the blood of Jesus. The seed of eternal life that sprouted in you is imperishable. The blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, spotless and unblemished, was shed for you. All of history focuses on the cross of Christ Jesus. He was revealed at this late date, at the end of history, for you. That is what is most important. Because of the revelation of Jesus, you and I have hope today. We might be poor or we might be deathly ill, but because Jesus was raised from the dead, He is our hope.
And we need that hope because this life is hard, and it is especially hard if you have decided to follow Jesus. In verse 22, Peter says, “you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.” One struggle we face is a struggle for holiness, and that’s the reason why life is hard. It’s a struggle to keep on living for Jesus. It’s a struggle to keep on obeying God when the whole world is doing whatever they feel like doing, but giving up is not for us. We are filled with the Spirit of God, and He is our strength.
Perhaps the greatest work God does in our lives is giving us the ability to love each other because we are definitely not an easy bunch to love. Each one of us face struggles, deficits, and inconsistencies. But God works in a supernatural way in that He creates within us “a sincere love for your brothers” that overcomes those deficits and inconsistencies, and the result is that we do come to“love one another deeply.” That’s what it means to be the church. When the church, or anyone in the church, loses that deep, one another kind of love, those people are failing miserably at being the church and failing at being the people of God.
Certainly, the battle belongs to the Lord in that the individual outcomes for all the situations of our lives are in His hands. But you and I are called to be aware of the current situation in our lives, to be self-controlled, to be on alert, and to have our hope set fully on all that God is doing in our lives. The thief may come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus is your hope.
I invite you again to take whatever necessary steps you need to take to be on alert, to be ready for battle, to take part in the prayer initiatives that are underway on Cape Cod. Please recognize God wants to do some extraordinary in our midst. We can sense the moving of God. Don’t miss out!
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