Inspirational poem from century ago goes this way:
We can’t all play a winning game – / Someone is sure to lose, / Yet we can play so that our name / No one may dare accuse; / That when the Master Referee / Scores against our name, / It won’t be whether we’ve won or lost / But how we’ve played the game!
Perhaps in some situations winning doesn’t matter; how you play does matter all the time, including before God. Yet apostle Paul says we should play to win:
1 Cor. 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
Peter agrees, when it comes to living life so as to please God, we should play so as to win the prize. If Lord Jesus is our Lord, Savior, Example, true follower of Christ will strive to follow his example and achieve the goal he has set: victory over all our enemies – sin, Satan, Satan’s agents. If we are Christ’s, even in culture like ours we can and should live victoriously. Going our way confidently, head held high, eyes and heart focused on the finish line where Savior stands ready to welcome us home.
Troubled by what is going on around? Yes. Grieved by all that is done to hurt our Lord? Absolutely. Discouraged and overwhelmed by opposition and persecution and apathy? No way! People Peter wrote to lived in culture further down road of moral decay than ours. He encouraged them to think rightly, to act rightly, gave best possible example and encouragement for doing so – the Lord Jesus. Take heart: since Christ has had the victory… and will have final complete victory over all his enemies, so shall we who are one with him by faith.
A. Christ did the hard, necessary work
what we don’t like to hear – since Jesus suffered, we should expect the same – if we suffer for sake of the Gospel, rejoice!!
we do like: just as significant, Jesus suffered for a purpose – to bring us to the Father, and he did it in our place
unless his suffering was pointless, it will achieve his purpose – if he suffered for you, you believe that, you will experience the eternal life he bought for you
don’t like to hear about death, most people don’t want to deal with death – yet Jesus’ death was necessary payment for our life, a payment he made willingly
if Jesus has experienced death for us, we should be willing… even if not required… to experience same in his cause, for his sake
he went to heaven
we like this part, that heaven is our future – notice where Jesus is: at the right hand of God, notice who is subject to him: angels and authorities and powers
nothing can stand in the way of Jesus bringing us to the Father – he has both the position and the power to make it happen
B. Not everyone gets saved
they heard the “gospel”
people of all kinds had opportunity to hear the warnings, see deliverance taking shape in front of them – took Noah 120 years
from God’s perspective, even though free to roam the earth and to appearances do as they pleased, were effectively in prison
they kept on their merry way
God was patient, longsuffering, putting up with their daily disobedience and mistreatment of the one who found grace in his sight
kudos to Noah’s family, too – don’t forget they suffered along with Noah, could have chosen different way to go but stayed faithful
difficult but necessary truth: the wilfully disobedient and unrighteous met a just end, the righteous continued to receive grace and mercy from kind and loving God
those who remained true to God… publicly (nothing hidden or secret about the Ark) received the reward due them from God
NOTE: the ark delivered Noah from judgment, the water delivered Noah from his enemies – same water that floated the ark destroyed the unrighteous
same Gospel message that brings some to saving faith hardens the hearts of others – difference is working of Holy Spirit
C. True believers will be delivered
pictured in baptism
Paul makes one kind of connection with symbolism of baptism, Peter another – Paul pictures death to sin, burial with Christ, raised to newness of life through faith in him
Peter focuses more on what baptism shows as result of conversion – a conscience cleaned from things that would displease God
and… is unspoken reference to deliverance from enemies – persecution and persecutors and evildoers are only temporary – will someday be delivered from them just as Noah and family were
one more thing – the ark in which Noah and family entrusted their lives no less effective than ark of Jesus Christ to deliver his people from judgment
a good conscience
basis is Jesus’ perfection, not ours – we are completely powerless to change ourselves, our conscience, our eternal destiny
we cannot present ourselves in acceptable condition before God, only Jesus can… and has… on his own behalf and ours
again, Paul Eph. 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
same water brought judgment on the wicked, mercy for the righteous – some folks have big problem with God flooding entire world, drowning all those people
everyone without exception deserved it, and keep in mind God did save eight people with massive task of starting over – even in judgment, God showed great mercy
guaranteed by Christ
if Jesus is everything we claim him to be, if death/burial/resurrection/ascension accomplished all we believe it did, have no cause for discouragement or fear
should be no shadow of doubt in mind… if total confidence in Jesus and his righteousness and not our own… heaven is our destiny
complete and final victory over all our enemies, those within and those without, will be ours as we share in Christ’s victory
Meanwhile, we still live in the here and now, not the by and by. If we believe all this, if we have desire to be faithful Christ-follower, requires particular lifestyle. As we said last week, must be living hopefully in a world filled with hopeless people. Here’s something else: if we need to be ready with a defense, an answer, for the hope we have… means we need to be consistently acting in a way that encourages people to ask questions. Our public witness must be one that invites people into a relationship… with Jesus. And keep in mind, we’re looking toward that goal when we enjoy victory in Jesus.