Monday, November 28, 2011

The Attitude of Gratitude

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:14-24, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

To have the mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude.  And to express the mindset of Jesus Christ is to give thanks in every situation. 

What do you think about those two statements?  Are they true?  Are they false?  Are they correct?  Are they incorrect?  Let me repeat them for you one more time, and you listen, and evaluate them with me, will you, please?  Statement number one: to have the mind or mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude, or, we might say, a thankful heart.  And, then, statement number two: to express the mindset of Jesus Christ, to display this attitude of gratitude, is to give thanks, is to allow the joyful appreciation that is in one’s heart to overflow in thankful praise.  What do you think about those statements? 

Caught somewhere between the exhilaration of summertime, with its vacations and sunshine and the day-by-day count-down to Christmas day – only 28 days of shopping left – sandwiched between soccer practice and band contests, car-pooling and punching a time clock, is a single, solitary day, set aside for most all of us to assemble with family and friends, to eat some turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie and to remember – yes, I said, “remember” – to give thanks for the blessings you have received.   With all the hype and hoopla related to ‘Black Friday’, midnight madness, 10p.m. pandemonium, we need a reminder, don’t we, that this past week, the emphasis is meant to be, not on shopping, but on saying “thank you” to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. 

To have the mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude.  And to express the mindset of Jesus Christ is to give thanks in every situation.  For the Christ, as we say, these things out to be “No Brainers”, completely obvious, right?  But how many of us didn’t realize or remember that these verses are in the Bible?

An attitude of gratitude.  Expressing that heartfelt gratitude by way of thanksgiving, using one’s lips to say, “Thank you, God…  Thank you!”  These things are at the heart and center of what it means to be a Christian.  But, how is it that so many Christians don’t know that or don’t show that? 

Clustered in a series of what I call ‘Biblical Universals’, ‘Biblical universal statements’ including: verse 14, “Be patient toward all men,” verse 15, “Don’t repay evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all,”  verse 16, “Rejoice always,” verse 17, “pray without ceasing,” verse 21, “test all things,” and verse 22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” 

Nestled so neatly, and almost inconspicuously, in that grouping of ‘Biblical Universals”, are these words: read them, hear them again, with me, will you, please?  In everything,” there’s that universal language again, right?  Paul says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, for you.” 

What do you think about those words?  I don’t know about you, but at first glance – honestly – this preacher’s response is: “What?  Paul?  You’ve gotta be kidding!  In everything give thanks?!”  Is this guy nuts or what? 

Pardon me if I sound a bit irreverent in saying that, but, honestly, haven’t you thought the same thing?  “Paul, what do you mean, ‘In everything give thanks?  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus?” 

Well, first of all, notice with me that Paul does not say, “For everything give thanks…”  You know, “God, I thank You for cancer…  God, I thank You for suicide… God, I thank You for drunk drivers who kill innocent little children…  God, I thank You for abortion…”  Guided by the Spirit of God, the apostle Paul’s exhortation to us is not, “Give thanks for all things…”  Why?  Because, from God’s perspective, not simply from our limited, human perspective, but from God’s all-knowing, eternal vantage point, some things – really, a lot of things – are bad, tragic, wrong, yes, even wicked and sinful and disgusting.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s divinely-inspired teaching for us here is not “give thanks for all things…”, but what?  “Give thanks in all things!”  But, what’s the difference? 

Let me give you a simple, short answer to that question: Romans 8:28.  The difference, the distinction between giving thanks for cancer and suicide and mass murder and poverty and starvation, and giving thanks in things like these is huge.  And it revolves around the truth contained in these words: Romans 8:28, “And we know that  all things,” there’s another one of those ‘Biblical universals’, “And we know that all things, God is at work, making all things [ultimately] work [out] for good, for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

In other words, what Paul says to us here in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, this ‘Biblical Universal’ about the Christian mindset and its expression in joyful praise, what is it?  It is a statement, a declaration, an exhortation, that is in keeping with or an outgrowth of the fact that God is sovereign!  That He is bigger than, and, ultimately in control over, the ‘biggies’ in our lives, things like cancer, and unemployment, and suicide and divorce, and doubt and worry and disappointment and fear! 

Do you believe in the Sovereignty of God?  Do you?  I mean, who’s going to hold the universe together if He doesn’t?  President Obama?  Congress?  The Federal Reserve?  I mean, who’s going to make the sun go down tonight and cause it to rise again tomorrow morning?  The weather man?  Tony Romo?  Last night’s winner of Dancing with the Stars? 

When the apostle Paul writes what he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 about the Christ-like mindset, an attitude of gratitude and the expression, the overflow of that attitude in thanksgiving, he is not talking non-sense!  No!  His words could not be more clear, could they?  He is talking sovereignty!  The over-arching ability and authority of God, and – and – His always, ultimately [universal statement], good plan at work, being carried out for, in behalf of, to the benefit of those who are His children! 

“In everything give thanks…”  That’s the first line of this powerful November 27th, June 12th, February 6th, April 20th exhortation, isn’t it?  By the way, I threw in those dates that are not today’s dates, why?  To remind us that this teaching is a 24/7, 365 teaching!  It is good, helpful, needful, for every day of the year, and every minute of every day!  “In everything give thanks,” that’s the first line of this ‘Biblical Universal’.  But, what about line two?  It says, “for this is the will of God…”  “For this is God’s will…” 

Is the will of God something you struggle with, something you have trouble figuring out?  “God, should I do this, or that?”  God, should I choose this, or that?”  Take a look.  Could it be any clearer?  No need to cast lots here.  No need to put out a fleece here.  The will of God is clear.  What God wants, by the way, that’s what the phrase, “the will of God” really means.  “What God wants” is clear.  Very clear.  He wants His children to trust in His sovereignty!  And, like His Only Begotten, to surrender to His good and perfect plan, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  And, then, with that Christ-like mindset, to praise Him!  To thank Him for what He’s going to do, how He will display His power, His wisdom, His mercy, His faithfulness in, and yes, through the good, the bad and even the ugly!  “In everything give thanks…”  “For this is God’s will…”

Section number three, two words, we might wish, right, that they were two different words.  But what words are those two words?  “For you”, or “Concerning you”. 

Are you a child of God?  Truly?  Are you a Christian?  Really?  Then these words, these two words are written to you.  An attitude of gratitude, one of the most significant characteristics of the Christ-like mindset, is to be your attitude.  Giving thanks, using your lips to offer up a sacrifice of praise that blesses the name of our Father in heaven, that is to be your consistent and constant activity! “give thanks in everything for this is the will of God for you…”  That’s three-fourths of the verse, right?  What is the last fourth?  “In Christ Jesus”.

Beloved, do you realize the magnitude of those three words?  “In Christ Jesus”?  Those three words are enormous, in their meaning and importance.  How do I know that?  Well, consider, first of this powerful set of contrasts: in the darkness, in the light, in sin, in the Savior, dead, alive, lost, found, perishing, possessing everlasting life, deceived, disobedience, enslaved and separated from the life of God, enlightened, obedient, freed and brought into communion with God.  I know that’s a long list of pairs, contrasting pairs everyone of which, by the way, is found right here, in the Scriptures.  It’s a long list of contrasting pairs, I know.  But think about the list, the contrasting pairs.  The first one I gave, the first of each pair, who does it describe?  Someone who is “in Christ Jesus”?  In the darkness, in sin, dead, lost, perishing, and so on?  Do those words describe someone who is “in Christ Jesus”?  The Bible’s answer to that question is clear, isn’t it? 

None of those words or phrases, ‘Biblical universals’, none of those words or phrases describe someone who is “in Christ Jesus”!  No!  But, listen, the words “in the light” do, don’t they?  The words, “in the Savior” do, don’t they?  The words, “alive, found, and possessing everlasting life” do, don’t they?  And, so, for the person for whom those words are true and accurate, for the person who IS “in Christ Jesus”, why shouldn’t he be “thankful”?  Why shouldn’t she give to God the praise?  He’s “in Christ Jesus”!  She’s in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!  He has every reason - universal statement again – she has every reason to pursue and to possess the joyful Christian mindset and its expression in daily giving of thanks! 

But, here’s the question of the hour: “In Christ Jesus”, “in the Light”, “in the Savior”, do those words describe you?  Are they true of you? 

One more ‘Biblical universal’: 2 Peter 3:9, “[God] is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  Another verse about the will of God.  But is it saying that all will ultimately be saved?  Later on in the same chapter Peter makes it clear that God allows for the will of men to be exerted against His will and for rebellious man’s will, in cooperation with Satan’s will, results in some, in many, perhaps in most people being “led away with the error of the wicked.”  (2 Peter 3:17)

God doesn’t want you to be lost, dead, perishing, in sin.  His desire for you is that you be saved.  But you, you must “hear His voice.  You must not harden your heart.”  (Hebrews 3:7-8)  You must open the door to Him. 

The joyful Christ mindset, would that it would be true of you, starting today.  Hear His voice, open your heart, to Him… 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving & The Names of Our God

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 13, 2011

Psalm 31:6-8, “I have hated those who regard useless idols; but I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place.

Psalm 32:10-11, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.  Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 33:1-5, “Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!  For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.  For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth.  He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

As you may have noticed in the worship bulletin this morning, the Lord-willing my family and I will be traveling to Atlanta, Georgia this week to attend this year’s National Missionary Convention.  We look forward to this time of fellowship with my brother, and other missionaries like him, who are seeking to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to advance the kingdom of God in places far and wide.  We covet your prayers for our trip and for our own opportunities of ministry and worship.  We praise God for your generous help with the trip as well. 

However, since we will be absent next Lord’s Day, on the Blessing Count Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to take the opportunity this morning to rehearse and recite a few of my own blessings and hopefully, in doing so, to sort of help prime your pumps, as you prepare to count your blessings also. 

First of all, let me say, as I’m sure many of you will say, how grateful to God I am for my wife and children and for the rest of the members of my family.  Indeed God has been very good to me, very gracious in giving them to me.  And, like you, I thank God for those every days blessings, those daily essentials, that He so consistently and generously provides, health and strength, food and clothing and shelter, freedom and safety.  Furthermore, I praise Him for His Bride the Church, and the privilege of being a part of it, and for the awesome, and often, overwhelming task He’s given to my family and me, to minister to His people, to you and others like you.

But, you know that all these things for which we are thankful, they didn’t come to us out of thin air.  They had to come from somewhere, from some-One.  And, so ultimately, my Loved Ones, when we count our blessings, when we celebrate a season we call ‘Thanksgiving’, whether we want to or not, whether we realize it or not, we are to acknowledge the Source of those gifts, the Giver of those blessings!  And, in doing so, what are we doing?  What ought we to be doing?  We are celebrating Him!  We ought to be glad in Him!  But, just who is this Giver of every good and perfect gift?  In the handful of verses from the Psalms I read a moment ago, did you notice?  The divinely-inspired poets, David, and another unknown author, contrast the Source of all these good gifts we enjoy – the Lord – with what they refer to as “useless idols” (Psalm 31:6).  Furthermore, the psalmists, in describing their own experiences of and encounters with the Good Give, the Perfect Giver, they contrast their responses to Him, with the responses of those who reject or neglect their Blessings Source. 

Notice what the text says: Psalm 31:6, “I have hated those who regard useless idols, but I trust in the Lord…  I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for you have considered my trouble.  You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place.”  Or, take Psalm 32:10-11 as an example, David, the psalmist, in expressing his own thanksgiving for how God had forgiven his sins, covered his iniquities, determined not to impute his guilt at his transgressions, David arrives at this stunning and very sobering and humbling conclusion: look at what he writes there in Psalm 32:10-11, “Many SORROWS shall be to the wicked [to those who don’t repent of their sins, to those who refuse to acknowledge their guilt before their holy and righteous Creator], many will be THEIR sorrows, but…  Take a look, he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him!” It’s no wonder, is it, that David’s final verse in this psalm is this triumphant exclamation and exhortation, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!” 

Yes, I want to take this time today, a week ahead of time, since I’ll be missing out next Lord’s Day, I want to take time to count my blessings with you, and perhaps, to stir you to do the same, even today. 

At the top of the first page of this sermon, I made a list of fifteen of the names of God, that I regularly come back to in counting my blessings on a daily, and weekly basis.  Do you mind if I share them with you and briefly explain why I make mention of them? 

Here goes: Shepherd, I know that the term ‘sheep’ may not be the normal, regular way in which you think of yourself, but listen, if you are a Christian, truly born again by the grace of God, you are one of His ‘sheep’, and He is your Good Shepherd.  Several passages of Scripture come to mind, when I think of this name for my God, for example Psalm 23, find it there, if you would, in your Bibles.  David, the psalmist, who was himself a shepherd, knew very well what he was talking about, when he wrote these words, “The Lord is my shepherd…”  I like that, don’t you?  “The Lord”, not some useless idol, not some wood, stone, or metal object, fashioned by the hands of mere men, but “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  He, the Lord, my Shepherd, supplies everything I need.  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…”  We don’t have time to examine the rest of David’s words here, but you the point, don’t you? 

Count your blessings, my fellow ‘sheep’, give thanks to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Praise, worship, rejoice in the Good Shepherd, who has laid down His life, for you, His dearly loved sheep!

Then, there’s the name ‘Peace’.  We are first introduced to this name of God, “Jehovah Shalom”, “The Lord is Peace”, way back in the book of Judges, in the Old Testament, in the days of a somewhat reluctant servant of the Lord by the name of Gideon.  Judges chapter 6 is the chapter, and verse 24 is the specific verse location.  At a time of great crisis and extreme danger and distress, both nationally and personally, for this man Gideon, the Lord speaks to His servant these calming words of assurance: “Peace be with you… Do not fear, you shall not die…” (Judges 6:23).  Peace, what does that word mean to you?  What thoughts, ideas, images, does it conjure up in your mind?  How about things like tranquility, instead of turmoil?  How about harmony, in place of hostility?  How about rest, instead of war?  Many years later, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Someone whose names would be “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father” and, perhaps best of all, this Coming One would be known as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah9:6-7).  But, exactly how is it that this Coming One, whose name, by the way, is the Lord Jesus Christ, how is it that He is and will be our peace?  Please find Ephesians 2:11-22 – This chapter that beings by describing the hopeless and helpless spiritual condition of every man, woman and young person outside of Jesus Christ, “Dead in trespasses and sins”, following the leading of the spirit of the prince of darkness, by nature objects of God’s righteous wrath; what is it that the Coming One, Jesus, does for us, is for us, so as to become our Peace? 

Ephesians 2:11-22, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

This morning, and really, if I stop and think about it, every morning of every day, I am thankful for Jehovah Shalom, my peace! 

Thirdly, I thank God for the fact that He is my righteousness.  This past week, in preparation for our family trip later this week, my sons and I spent considerable time preparing our old chariot for the trip.  And, Ladies’, if you’re a neat-nick, if you’re Suzy housekeeper, with everything in your home spic and span, clean and shiny, listen, ladies’ don’t invite us over after a few hours of crawling around under a greasy old car!  Yuck!  Put those clothes and hand rags in the trash, right?  Do you know something?  Before an eternally, and infinitely Holy God, when it comes to my own righteousness, my own in-and-of-myself-moral-goodness, yuck!  That’s a good word for it!  Yuck!  Isaiah the prophet put it like this: “All our righteousness are a filthy rags…”  (Isaiah 64:6) 

But, listen, what is Jehovah, my God, to me?  What has He done for me?  What has He given to me in His Son Jesus Christ? One of the most succinct answers to that series of questions is found in the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian church.  1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – In a context that has everything to do with the power of God, and the wisdom of God, displayed for all to see, right there, at the Cross of Jesus Christ.  In a context where Paul reminds us that even God’s so called ‘foolishness’ is wiser than the best of man’s wisdom, and that god’s so-called ‘weakness’ is far more powerful than all of man’s might!  Listen to what the apostle Paul writes about our righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

I can’t glory in God’s presence, I can’t – I dare not – boast before my Maker, my God, and neither should you.  Why?  Because: “Of  Him we are in Christ Jesus…”  Because: “[He has] become for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”.  Why?  So that “no flesh should glory in His presence, yes.  But also, so that those who do glory, we who do give thanks, might do so in the right direction, to Him, in Him! 

Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is my peace.  Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord is my righteousness.  Jehovah Roi, the Lord is my shepherd.  There’s one more from this group of fifteen that I’ll mention quickly before we close.  Jehovah Shama, the Lord who is there.  Ezekiel 48:35 is the passage, if you’d like to look it up.  The same God who makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me besides still waters, my Shepherd, where is He, when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death?  Have you been there before? Is that where you are now?  There’s no place darker, more dangerous and discouraging than that place.  Your shepherd, my shepherd, where is He when we walk through that valley? 

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  Jehovah Shama, the Always-There-For-Me God, in that valley, deep and dark and dreary, full of danger and depression, that’s where He is!  Jehovah Shama, He is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  He is our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  He is the God whose words, “I will never leave you or forsake you…” mean something. 

Jehovah Shama, Jehovah Roi, Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jehovah Shalom.  This Thanksgiving season, and every day of our lives, if you know the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, ultimately, you find yourself praising Him, thanking Him.  Do so with me, will you? 

Friday, November 4, 2011

What Motivates Us To Please God?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church                    Sunday Morning, October 30, 2011
David P. Kautt

            1 Peter 1:13-2:12, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.   Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because

      “ All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers,
      and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.  Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

      “ Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
               and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

      “ The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,”


      “ A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

I appreciate your attentive response to the reading of that rather lengthy portion of Scripture.  It’s a passage that I would like to peruse with you this morning as we learn more about what it means to bring joy to our Father in Heaven. To refresh your memory from our study a couple of weeks ago, let’s return to a lingering question that a study like this brings into our minds.  That question is: what is it about God, what’s so great, so special about Him, that would prompt us to want to please Him and bring joy to Him?  I mean, fathers like I am, we have imperfections, don’t we, girls?  And, fathers like I am, we also have our glaring deficiencies!  But, listen – remember?  Not our Father in heaven!  No!  Praise God!  He is an impartial Father, a Father who doesn’t play favorites, a Father, as 1 Peter 1:17 puts it, who judges according to each one’s work with a judgment that is without partiality or prejudice! 

We have an impartial Father, and that is an incredible blessing because some of us have been the child who wasn’t favored, the son who wasn’t ‘Momma’s Boy’, the daughter who wasn’t ‘Daddy’s Girl’.  We have an impartial Father – what a blessing!  But also, remember?  What a sobering reminder that is, too!  Our heavenly Father, evaluates us, judges our lives, not on the basis of superficial externals, but on the basis of the real you and me!  He sees and knows what no earthly father sees and knows about us.  He is an impartial Father.

But, then, let’s also be reminded that our Father in heaven is a faithful Father.  A Father we can always depend on, a father who always keeps His word. 

1 Peter 1:22-25 – Take a look there one more time, will you?  Earthly Father, you want to know why they are imperfect?  Why they have all those glaring deficiencies?  It’s because they are corruptible, perishable, subject to death and decay!  It’s because they are like withering grass and fading, faltering flowers.  But not our Father in Heaven!  We are challenged to bring joy to Him – why?  Because He is faithful!  Because His Word, His promises endure forever! 

Thirdly, let’s not forget the fact that our Father in heaven, we are inspired, yes, even incited, to want to bring joy to His heart – why?  Because He is a gracious Father.  He is an utterly gracious and patient Father!  1 Peter 2:1-3, take a look again.  New born babes, that’s who we are, mess makers, who could bring out the grouch in God!  But listen, my fellow mess-makers!  God’s middle name isn’t ‘Oscar’.  There is no GROUCH in Him, only grace!  Only grace – that is – and holiness.  1 Peter 1:13-16, our Father in heaven, unlike any and every earthly father, is holy, separate, set apart!  There truly is no One else like Him!  No one else who wants to set us apart for the incredibly lofty purpose and mission of bringing Him pleasure!  Why would anyone, why would you and I want to bring joy to our Father in heaven? 

First reason, first answer to that question is simply this: because of what kind of Father He is!  His holiness, His impartiality, His faithfulness, and yes, His grace, all these unique qualities of our Father in heaven draws us to Him, spurs us toward pleasing Him! 

But, then, there’s a second reason why you and I are – or, ought to be – invited and even incited to bring God joy, and that is, because of what He has done for us, and what He has made of us.  I’m talking here, now, not just about the nature and character of God, but also about the nature and character of salvation.  Salvation: we talk a lot about that subject as Christians, don’t we?  But do we always understand what we’re saying?  Allow me to suggest to you two simple truths to keep in mind whenever the subject of salvation comes up.  Number one, when you and I are discussing the eternally important topic of salvation, first of all, we can’t help but discuss and describe the Giver of that gift, our Holy, Impartial, Gracious and Faithful Father.  He is the giver of that infinitely rich gift. 

But, then there is a second fact, a second simple truth pertaining to salvation that we also must learn about and understand.  You know what it is, don’t you?  Second simple truth about salvation: it is a gift: 2 Corinthians 9:15, it is our Heavenly Father’s indescribable and unspeakable gift to unworthy, undeserving sinners like you and me! 

The reason, the compelling reason for us to bring God pleasure, is just that!  He, our perfect, holy, faithful, impartial and, yes, unbelievably gracious Father, has given us a gift!   The gift.  Look at what the apostle Peter has to tell us about that gift.  It has everything to do with what God, our Father in heaven, has DONE for us, in Jesus Christ. 

1 Peter 1:17-19, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

I looked at the calendar again this morning and noticed – oh, no – I have only 54 more shopping days left until Christmas.  But what’s so special about that day that makes me remember to count down those other 54 days?  The gifts, right?  The gifts.  I’ve got a question for you, folks.  How many of you remember every gift you received last Christmas?  How many of you are still using every one of them?  Why not?  Reality check time, isn’t it?  The reason we don’t remember, the reason we’re not still using those gifts, maybe even returned some of them for a refund, is why?  What does the text say?  Because even when it comes to gifts as seemingly valuable as silver and gold, all of the gifts that we give to each other at Christmas, what are they?  They are corruptible.  1 Peter 1:18 – Peter says that they are perishable!  But not the gift!  Not what God has done for us, given to us, in Jesus Christ! 

“Conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here [on earth] in fear.”  1 Peter 1:17 – Live to bring God, your Heavenly Father, pleasure!  Why?  Because of the gift!  In Peter’s day, slaves, owned and overseen by human masters, they were bought and sold using perishable things like gold and silver to complete the transaction.  Oh, but listen.  Which of us has the resources, the bank account, IRA, 401-K, stock portfolio, big enough to purchase someone enslaved to sin?  Praise to the Giver, faithful, holy, impartial, gracious Giver!  And, yes, praise Him, for the gift!  The reason, the motivating reason behind Peter’s command to “conduct ourselves throughout the time of our earthly stay in fear”, the motivating reason behind the call to bring joy to God, is what?  The gift!  “You have not been redeemed by corruptible things like silver and gold”.  But, look!  Praise God, “you have been redeemed with – by means of – the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…” 

How many shopping days did we say we have left?  54?  I’m not propelled to please God, to bring God joy, because of any of those gifts!  But, I am propelled to do so because of that gift, given on the cross. 

Talking about perishable gifts and precious gifts.  Look again at verses 22 through 2 5 of 1 Peter chapter one. 

1 Peter 1:22-25, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because
      “ All flesh is as grass,
      And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
      The grass withers,
      And its flower falls away,
       But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

One of the most joyous things I get to participate in as a minister, with the families of this congregation, is the birth of little ones into your families. What a special occasion that is!  But, you know something?  Equally as special, but infinitely more painful for those very same families, is when I go with them to the cemetery to bury their children!  The paradox between joyful birth and sorrowful death is almost too painful to bear.  Except for two overarching realities.  Look again at the text.  Flesh and blood, we know this fact don’t we?  Flesh and blood, apart from, outside of, Jesus Christ’s gift, flesh and blood was born to die!  The Delivery Room is the first step toward the Embalming Room!  Oh, but listen.  In Jesus Christ, the gift, because of our holy, faithful, gracious Father, the Giver, guess what?  There is a second overarching reality, and that is this: in Jesus Christ, the dying, the dead, who have been born AGAIN, through the living, abiding, eternal Word of God, shall live again! 

The reason I am inspired, propelled to bring God pleasure, it’s the Gift.  Look at what the Giver has done for me!  Redeemed me with His Son’s precious blood.  Given new life, eternal life to me, through His living and abiding Word!  Why wouldn’t I want to bring Him joy?!  But, listen – quickly, because we must close.  Why wouldn’t I want to please God?  I am motivated, driven to bring joy to His heart, not only because of what he Has done for me, what He has given in Christ, but also, because of what He has made of me.

Last time we were together, I mentioned the painful fact that for at least some of us, in our families growing up, we weren’t ‘Daddy’s Girl’ or ‘Momma’s Boy’.  As far as our earthly parents were concerned we were kind of like what Peter describes all of us as being, when we are outside of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 2:10 – “Once we were not a people…”  To put it in simple terms, before God did for us what He has done for us, in Jesus Christ, we were nobodies, we were ‘zeroes’.  And, as he says in the second half of the verse, we were not the objects, the targets of God’s mercy.  Outside of Christ, that’s what we were.  Outside of Christ, that’s what every lost person is.  But, take a look at the wonderful verse that precedes verse 10, and read it in connection with verse 10. 

1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Why would folks like you and me want to live our lives to please God?  Because of what He has done for us, yes!  But, also because of what He has made of us!  The ‘nobodies’ in Jesus Christ, become the chosen ones.  The ‘zeroes’, because of the Giver and the Gift, become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, God’s own special people, His precious possessions, for what reason?  To accomplish what goal?  1 Peter 2:9: even pleasing God is no the ultimate goal.  What is?  Praising God.  Bringing glory to God.  “That you may proclaim the praises – literally, the excellencies and mighty mercies - of God, the gracious, holy, faithful Giver who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light! 

Bringing joy to the heart of our heavenly Father.  We don’t do it, we don’t pursue that lofty goal in order to be saved, but because we have been saved, because God our gracious, faithful, holy Father in Heaven, has chosen to give all these things to us, in Jesus Christ His Son, His indescribable Gift to us.