The Unshakeable Strength of God's Word
January 19, 2016
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
God Centered Life Ministries is pleased to welcome Steven Lee, pastor of small groups and community outreach at College Church in Wheaton, IL. With our recent focus on reading the whole Bible in a year, Steven shares with us “The Unshakeable Strength of God’s Word” which might serve as an encouragement to us as we read and study. The world is rapidly changing. Everything seems up for grabs. Technology is moving at a break-neck speed. Marriage looks vastly different than just a decade ago. Much of our food is birthed in a laboratory. For some of us, things feel precariously unsteady. What’s going to happen next? When’s the next shoe going to drop? Will churches lose their tax status? Will pastors be prevented from speaking freely in the pulpit? Will my business come under fire? Will the cultural intolerance police target me next? When will seemingly thoughtful people stop advocating for the killing of the unborn? What will become of all the refugees from the Middle East? Is the U.S. on a collision course with Russia, China or North Korea? And the list goes on. If you’re a worrywart, then you have no shortage of things to dwell upon.
Keep Doing What Christians DoBut how should Christians live in the midst of a rapidly changing world? This is precisely the same question the Christians were asking the Apostle Peter in his first letter. Peter addressed these maligned and despised Christians by reminding them of their glorious inheritance and salvation that awaits them in Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-9). Then, Peter gets to more immediate concerns. Peter gives them four commands on how Christians should live (1 Pet. 1:13-25). The Christians in those days were experiencing slander, reviling and mocking from the society around them. Peter assures them they are on the right track. Don’t get all bent out of shape Christian, but keep doing what Christians do. He gives them four commands. First, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13). Second, “be holy in all your conduct” (1:15). Third, “conduct yourself with fear” (1:17) and fourth, “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22). The point is this: in the midst of a hostile and changing world, keep living in light of your future glory. God has not changed, the Bible is still true, the gospel still saves, Jesus is still on his throne, and Christians are still called to live out God’s purposes in the world. Put your hope in God, continue to live holy lives that honor and reflect the God you serve, continue to revere God rather than fear man, and keep loving fellow believers. This is what Christians do. Nothing special is needed. No course change. No audible is necessary. Keep on living for Jesus in the world. Don’t run and hide. Don’t cower and don’t grasp at backup plans. God hasn’t changed, and the calling of Christians hasn’t changed either.
Can’t Die, So Keep Living for GodBut Peter doesn’t end there. Peter reminds his readers that they have been born again by “the living and abiding word of God” (1:23). This is not small potatoes. This is a big deal. Our new life in Christ has been brought about by God’s very own words that carry with it God’s undeniable power. It is this word that causes people to experience new birth, and because this word is imperishable, so are we. We’re invincible. We can’t die. We will rise again to new life. This is the comforting word that Peter brings.
God’s Comfort in IsaiahBut Peter goes on. The payoff is yet to come. Peter quotes Isaiah 40, verses 6 and 8 but likely he has all of Isaiah 40:1-11 in view. Why does Peter cite these verses? Isaiah 40 was written to discouraged Israelite exiles who are under the rule of the Babylonian superpower. Isaiah knows Israel is discouraged, confused, and doubting God’s covenant promises. It is into this fretful fog that Isaiah gives his prophesy. God is speaking comfort to his people (40:1) and promises that God’s glory will be revealed (40:3-5). Make a way for Yahweh who is to come.
Christ Fulfills Isaiah 40We know that John the Baptist is the voice in the wilderness that is declaring “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Is. 40:3) in preparation for Jesus’ ministry. This verse is cited in all four gospel accounts. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in his first coming and fulfilled this prophesy in Isaiah. God’s word stands. The very word that was prophesied to Israel through Isaiah came to be fulfilled in Christ in his first coming. Yet there is more. There will be a worldwide revelation of Jesus Christ such that “all flesh shall see it together” (Is. 40:5). This hasn’t happened yet. This will happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Isaiah’s prophesy is twofold. In the same way that Christ’s first coming fulfills one part of his prophesy, it will be Christ’s second coming that fulfills the later part of verse 5: “all flesh shall see it together.” What this means is God’s word is unfailing. In the same way that God’s word stands for Isaiah’s audience, God’s word stands for Peter’s audience, and God’s word stands for us. We can have unshakeable confidence because God’s word never fails nor will it ever falter. It will stand forever and forever.
All Flesh Is Like GrassSo Christians need to be reminded that “all flesh is like grass,” and yet “the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Pet. 1:24-25, cf. Is. 40:6). Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, superpowers, and nations will pass away, but Christ, his Kingdom and the Word of our God will stand forever and ever and ever. It will know no end. It cannot be thwarted or stopped. The superpower of Babylon exiled God’s people and they lived on the margins, Rome became a kingdom that persecuted and killed Christians, and today we live in a country that is in moral decline. But God’s word stands. The truth that “the word of the Lord remains forever” should give Christians an unshakeable confidence. All flesh is going to fade into obscurity much like Babylon and Rome and even America someday. Yet, our hope is not in a nation or legislation but rests on the unfailing word of God to fulfill his promise to put on display the glory of Christ so that all might see. So Christian, prepare your mind for action, be sober, and set your hope on the grace that will be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13). Jesus will return. You will take hold of your great inheritance and salvation. Stand firm. God’s word is the unfailing and unshakeable foundation on which we stand. Steven Lee (@5tevenLee) is the pastor of small groups and community outreach at College Church in Wheaton, IL, where he lives with his wife Stephanie and their four children. He contributes articles to DesiringGod.org and TheGospelCoalition.org.]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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