Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We've got it good...

I'm afraid many Christians have come to a point spiritually where they are somewhat bored by salvation.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s not that they don’t feel privileged. They are grateful for the Bible, for the church, they are glad that their sins are forgiven, that they are saved from hell and all that. But deep down in the part of their heart that nobody else sees, there is this feeling that while all that stuff is good and nice, it isn’t very exciting and that others throughout history have had it better.

Have you ever felt like that?

Like you missed out on all the good spiritual action?

That if only you had been there at the parting of the Red Sea, or if only you had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, or if only God would talk to you directly like he did the prophets, then you would be excited about coming to worship, then you would be thrilled to be here, but as it is, where you are at, well, your salvation, what God has done for you, has lost some of its initial freshness.

I would be very surprised if there weren’t some of you, who would have to say, if you were going to be brutally honest with yourself, that although you are thankful you are saved, you aren’t all that incredibly excited about it.

I’ve been there...way too often.

The problem though is not with the salvation God has provided, it is with our appreciation of it.

Like a person who has lived in a Caribbean paradise all his life and takes his surroundings for granted, we are so spiritually privileged that we often take for granted how spiritually privileged we are.

That’s why I hope you’ll look very carefully to what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-12 because what we find here is a man who is overwhelmed with the wonder of our salvation; and who wants us to know why.

We may take our salvation for granted, but he doesn’t.

After pointing us to the certainty of our future salvation in verses 3-5, and then describing how we are presently experiencing that salvation in verses 6-9, he concludes by showing us how privileged we are to know what we know about this salvation and to have experienced what we have experienced.

He achieves that in a stunning way; by taking us to the persons we would consider the most privileged spiritually and revealing their attitude towards our spiritual privileges.

He writes,

“Concerning this salvation…” he writes, “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

I think most of us, regardless of what we might think about the spiritual privileges we experience would have to admit that the prophets experienced some amazing spiritual privileges. Certainly, the readers of 1 Peter would have thought so. The prophets held a high place in their thinking, and rightly so.

I mean, when we talk about the prophets we are talking about men who were called to a special work by God Himself, and not just called in the sense of hey this is what I think God wants me to do, but called in the sense of God coming to them and saying this is what I want you to do, I want you to be my messenger, to speak for me. Which means when we talk about the prophets, we’re talking about guys who when they talked to God, God talked back. It’s hard to imagine a greater privilege than being able to speak with God. Besides that, they got to see things that none of us have ever seen. Just take Isaiah, here’s a person who actually was given a vision of God sitting on His throne. In addition to speaking with God and seeing God, I for one am always pretty impressed by the miracles God enabled these men to perform. I love that time when Elijah was standing in front of all the prophets of Baal, and God sends down fire from heaven to prove that He is who He says He is, and that Elijah’s speaking the truth. We see here in 1 Peter that these men even had a special relationship with Christ. Peter tells us the Spirit of Christ was in them, and he was revealing certain things to them about the sufferings of Christ and the glories which would follow.

All that’s pretty awesome, and I think when hear about the prophets and their privileges, some of us are tempted to say to ourselves, if I experienced the spiritual privileges they experienced, I’d be excited about God too. These men were privileged.

But while we are talking about great spiritual privileges, how about the holy angels? That’s the second group Peter mentions. He doesn’t spend as much time talking about them, but again, regardless of what you think about your spiritual privileges, we’d all have to say the holy angels experience some great spiritual privileges.

In fact, I’d have to say if I didn’t know what I knew about the Scripture, but if I didn’t know what the Scripture actually said, and had to choose between being a holy angel and being a prophet, I’d be tempted to choose to be a holy angel. After all, they’ve got all kinds of privileges and they don’t even have to get thrown in prison or spit upon or hurt physically like the prophets.

They are these incredibly amazing beings who get to serve God and do His will, they worship God all the time, they appear before the presence of God, they apparently communicate directly with God, they celebrate the praises of God. They are privileged.

In fact, if I were to ask you who do you think are the most spiritually privileged people ever, I’m guessing many of you would answer the prophets or the angels; but if I asked that question of the prophets and the angels, do you know how they would answer?

They would point to you.

Isn’t that the point of the text?

What’s Peter doing here but showing us the attitude the prophets and angels have towards our salvation? Why’s Peter showing us their attitude but to magnify our great spiritual privileges?

Peter writes, “Concerning this salvation…”

The salvation that is the outcome of your faith, verse 9; the salvation, verse 5, that you know is going to be revealed in the last time; and the salvation, verse 3, that is yours through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the new birth to a living hope; the salvation you experienced, you are experiencing and you will experience, concerning this salvation, your spiritual privileges, Peter writes, “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully…”

This is how the prophets felt about your salvation. They searched and inquired into it.

Those two terms indicate an intense, almost all consuming interest. When we use terms like search and inquire, we certainly aren’t talking about someone who has a passing interest in something, but rather when we talk about someone searching and inquiring into something we are talking about someone who takes an active interest in something, someone who we might say is consumed with finding something out.

The fact that Peter uses two words, search and inquire, which are basically synonymous only goes to show just how great an emphasis he wants to place on how earnestly these prophets sought to understand the salvation that they were prophesying about.

To get a mental picture of what Peter’s getting at with these terms, you might think about the way most single people would respond after receiving an anonymous love letter.

They open it up, they read the words of deep and lasting affection, roses are red, violets are blue, boy I love you, they look to see who wrote it, to find it signed “A secret admirer.”

What happens next? You know the story as well as I do. That letter, and discovering who wrote it suddenly becomes that person’s primary object of interest. It would be a rare person indeed who would be willing to rest until they discovered who wrote it. Few would sit back passively, most would actively search and inquire carefully to discover its author; they would be consumed with finding an answer, perhaps a bit like these prophets, who Peter says searched and inquired carefully concerning your salvation.

It may be that they went to God and asked him what He meant by what He told them to say; or it may be that they went to Scripture and searched in Scripture and even in their own earlier prophecies to discover more about the salvation and grace they were telling others about.

Either way, the salvation you are experiencing was the chief object of their interest. It was what kept them up at night. They had much to do. They weren’t just predicting the future; they also had a big responsibility to show God’s people what he wanted from them in the present. But, in spite of all the pressure on their shoulders, and even in spite of all the privileges they experienced, there was one issue that they were interested in above all others, how God was going to accomplish what He has accomplished for us through Christ.

Now who’s privileged?

We have something in the gospel that the greatest men in the Old Testament longed to have, to understand.

If the prophet’s attitude towards your salvation is not amazing enough for you, just read further in our text, the prophets aren’t the only ones who think your salvation is amazing, the holy angels do as well.

We live in a culture where many people are fascinated by angels. There’s a sense in which I can understand why. They are fascinating creatures. But do you know what Peter tells us angels are fascinated by?

Peter tells us in verse 12 that the prophets were serving us, “in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

Angels long – that’s the strongest Greek word for desire – to look – at the things God has done for you.

You might imagine turning a corner and seeing a group of glorious, shining, angels all crowded around something, kind of leaping up over each other to look at it. Wouldn’t you want to know what they were so interested in seeing? Peter tells us. They are longing to look at your salvation; specifically the things the preachers of the good news announced by the Holy Spirit. Angels delight in the glories of Christ’s kingdom.

Isn’t that awesome?

These mighty servants of God, have much to do, they are busy serving the saints, busy doing what God wants, all kinds of responsibilities, but there’s one thing they continually delight in, one thing long to reflect on and look at, and that’s the way God has accomplished your salvation.

I’m really not sure that Peter could make his point much clearer.

This is why I say, if you asked the prophets and the angels who they thought were the most spiritually privileged people, they would point to you.

We understand something that the greatest men in the Old Testament desperately desired to understand. We are experiencing something that the most amazing creatures in the heavens are continually amazed about.

There’s no question about the fact that spiritually we have it good!

The question though is, do we appreciate how good we have it spiritually?

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