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Glory in Our Grief

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 20, 2024 12:01 am

Glory in Our Grief

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 20, 2024 12:01 am

In a letter to Christians suffering for their faith, the Apostle Peter wrote to remind them of the glory of the gospel. Today, Sinclair Ferguson explains how the gospel sustains and strengthens believers in times of adversity.

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We dare not, as Christians, interpret our own suffering or the suffering of others through our eyes or even through our emotions, real as they are.

We need to learn to interpret them through what we hear in the Word of God. One of the reasons the Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter was to encourage first-century Christians who were suffering and who would be on a path to even greater suffering. But how Peter handles this word of encouragement is not how we typically go about it today.

Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and this is the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. This week, Sinclair Ferguson is joining us and helping us to understand the Apostle Peter's first letter from his brand new series, Sojourners and Exiles. And as we've heard already, it's a letter to help us in our believing, to direct us in our doing, and to comfort us in our suffering. Although most of us don't experience persecution like Peter's original readers did, like them, we are in the minority now, and suffering is part of the Christian life.

So here's Dr. Ferguson on the glory in our grief. Now, in our first study, we were looking just at the first two verses of the first letter of the Apostle Peter, seeing him identify himself and also thinking about the grace that had been shown to these Christians in modern Turkey, as we would say nowadays, of the wonder of their salvation, a divine conspiracy to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. And now he begins his letter proper, and the theme of the verses that begin in number three and end in verse number 12 is the glorious salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther, who loved this letter, says a very interesting thing about it.

He says, this letter contains all you need to know, all you need to know in a letter that you can probably read in about 20 minutes. And as we saw last time, a later writer, Archbishop Robert Leighton, described this letter as establishing Christians in believing, in directing them, in doing, and comforting them in suffering. I remember very vividly a friend who had been a missionary in Iran saying, First Peter is Christians' favorite letter who are living in Iran, and of course, because they knew and were experiencing what Peter was speaking about. And as we've said, it's really a great tract for our times as possibly we face the kind of social persecution, if not the physical persecution, the marginalization of the Christian way of life in Western society. And for that reason, whether they were living in first century AD or whether we're living in the 21st century AD, there is a timeliness about this letter from a man who once denied the Lord Jesus Christ and yet was gloriously restored to fruitful Christian ministry.

I often think that my teachers at school were unwise in buying textbooks that told you at the beginning that the answers were always at the back of the book. But often in the New Testament, you do find that the answers at the back of the book, explanations of why, for example, this letter was written. And if you know First Peter, you know that it's right at the end of his letter that he begins to speak about what Satan is doing, about the way in which he diverts Christians from what they see in God's Word to what they feel in their emotions. And he is constantly therefore bringing us back, you would see that in some of the quotations, constantly bringing us back as Christians to learn to see the world not through our eyes but through our ears, to use the Scriptures as the lenses through which we understand and interpret everything. And right at the beginning, he makes clear to us that this includes any suffering that we experience. We dare not as Christians interpret our own suffering or the suffering of others through our eyes or even through our emotions, real as they are.

We need to learn to interpret them through what we hear in the Word of God. And this passage is a tremendously important and helpful passage for us to view suffering. I think the most obvious thing about it is that Peter does not begin his letter by using the words I confess I characteristically am likely to use in writing to a sufferer, which are, I have been grieved to hear.

I am so sorry to hear. Peter knows that they are grieved, but there's no sense that he is grieved. There's no sense that he feels that the most important thing for me to say to them is, I feel your pain. Well, of course, he didn't feel their pain.

You never feel someone else's pain. Or to say, I understand what you're going through, you only understand what you're going through. But he doesn't even say that. All he says is, isn't the gospel glorious? And if you think about it, you can understand why he does this.

Sympathizing with someone else's pain does little. That person realizing how great and glorious it is to be a child of God, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be someone in whom the ministry of the Spirit is active, that's what transforms suffering. Not what we see with our eyes or feel in our emotions, but what we understand through our ears from the Word of God. And so, the Apostle Peter first of all points them to the inheritance they have that lasts for eternity. The gospel gives us an inheritance that lasts for eternity. He says this in verse 3, doesn't he? Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is that the first thing you would write to a sufferer? Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus.

Why? Because according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christ has risen. Christ has risen. And therefore, those who are in Christ have risen spiritually, and no matter what happens, will rise physically.

And he's saying these are the lenses through which we see everything. We will rise again. And part of the assurance that we will rise again lies not only in the testimony of Jesus' resurrection, but in the fact that Jesus Himself has caused us to be spiritually resurrected by powerful regeneration. And we've already begun to share the life of the resurrection.

Eternal life has already begun in us. And then on top of that, says Peter in verse 4, we have been given an inheritance that will last. Now, there are usually two problems about an inheritance. One is it might not last. The stock market may collapse if it's financial.

The house may become worthless if it's a building. So, the inheritance naturally is endangered, and then we are endangered. We may not last. It may still be there, but we may not be there. Do you notice how Peter says the gospel is such a different reality from these natural inheritances? First of all, because the inheritance itself is guarded by God. It is stored up in heaven for us. It can't change. It can't decay.

Moth and rust can't consume it. So, the inheritance is secured. But in addition to the inheritance being secured, he says, and you are secured. You are being kept by the power of God for this inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, that is kept in heaven for you.

You too are being kept on earth for the inheritance that is being kept for you in heaven. And you notice he goes on to say, and it's ready. I think that's a beautiful thing. It's ready to be revealed. And I think as these Christians read or first heard this letter, they could not avoid thinking this man knew what he was speaking about. In his case, the inheritance itself was secured, but he was far from secure. Indeed, the Lord Jesus said to him, Peter, you're going to betray me. And Peter said, no, I'm secure. I'm more secure than any of these other disciples. I am the most secure disciple of all.

They say, pride goes before a fall. No, Peter, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times. But, but I have prayed for you, and you will be kept. Peter, as it were, had an individualized intercession by the Lord Jesus of the kind of intercession that we hear him making in John chapter 17 for all of us, not only for his apostles, but at the end of the chapter, for all who will come to believe, he will lose none. You see, this is the glorious truth that lifts up the drooping spirits. This is the truth that begins to put pain in its proper context. This is the truth that shines brightness into the life of the Christian believer. This is the truth that makes the ultimate difference between the funeral service of a believer and the funeral service of a non-believer, that there is already the sense of the glory that is yet to be. And I sometimes think in those dark days, humanly speaking, it's as though you see God puncturing a little hole in heaven and letting some of the glory come down to surround and sustain those who are mourning. And it's this that makes the Christian life so different, and as Peter says, so marvelous. So, the gospel provides us with an inheritance that lasts for eternity.

And because that's true, the gospel sustains believers in times of adversity. They may be grieved. Do you notice that he says that? He says, in your various trials, you have been grieved. That is to say, you experience grief and pain.

And the adjective he uses here means multicolored. That is to say, he's not isolating and distinguishing one difficulty, one grief from another. He's saying, things that grieve us come in every shade and hue. But he says you need to understand what God is doing. You may be grieved by the trials that you face, but if you understand the function of those trials, it will set them in their proper context. And when you see them in their proper context, here's his word of encouragement that most of us don't write in our letters of encouragement, rejoice.

That's not a counsel of perfection. That's a counsel that points us away from our own grief or the things that grieve us to that which is ultimate in the Christian's life. And that is that whatever happens to us in God's providence is not without important purpose. You see, that's what makes the difference. I wonder if you've ever noticed that when tragedy comes to a family, often they will do anything they possibly can so that some sense has been made of what has happened.

And they will speak that way. He did this so that his life was not in vain. But you see, that's purely temporary. It's praiseworthy and understandable.

It's purely temporary. What Peter is saying here is this, that the suffering the Christian experiences is actually doing something in their lives. It's not only that we're looking forward to glory. It is that when we respond in faith and understanding to whatever grieves us, then glory is already worked into us. And notice what he says, this happens so that the tested genuineness of your faith by these various trials, verse 7, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He's thinking about Job, isn't he? Job 23, verse 10, Job saying that after he has been tested and tried, he will come forth as gold. Perhaps I can put it like this, God is so resolutely set on making you glorious in heaven that He will stop at nothing here and now to do that. And we need to understand that that is what He is like. And He's able to be like that because He knows He is capable of holding onto us. And that's why He tests His workmanship.

I'm one of those people that my family keeps me away from doing anything practical. And if I do anything practical, the last thing I want to do is to test my workmanship because I have no confidence in my own workmanship. If I press on it or if I do what people who know what they're doing try and pull it apart to make sure that they've done the job well, then the whole thing collapses, not the Lord. He is so confident that He will complete the good work He has begun in us that He tests it. He puts it through the mill at times. And we say, God, why are You doing this to me? And of course, there are many different reasons He works in our lives, many reasons why in His providence we may experience trials and affliction, but this is certainly one of them.

He's testing His workmanship. He's proving that it will last. And as He does that, that's one of the things that gives us a sense of stability. So yes, He's preparing us for glory, but there's also glory now because, as He says in verse 28, this draws us more and more to look on Jesus Christ, our glorious Savior, and to rejoice with a joy that's just beyond words, isn't it?

And it is already filled with glory. You've probably met people who have suffered, who have been believers, and you sense there's a…it's as though their suffering has been a friction that has polished their graces and they shine for Jesus Christ. And of course, it's God's way with us because it was God's way with His Son. That's the point. He's using the same recipe in our lives to make us like Christ as the recipe He used in Christ's life to make Him all that He was, so that through suffering He would enter into glory.

That's the beauty of it. So the gospel provides us with an inheritance that will last for eternity. The gospel sustains believers in times of adversity. And the third thing I want you to notice in this passage so beautifully is that the gospel not only fulfills prophecy, but is an object of angelic inquiry. And in these closing verses here, in verses 10 through 12 in this section, Peter is now lifting up our eyes to say, this gospel that I'm speaking to you about, do you realize how marvelous it is? Do you realize that it is a gospel that was promised through the prophets and that they searched and inquired, trying to understand what they had written?

I love to think about Isaiah or one of the other prophets coming home and asked what he was writing about and saying, for example, in Isaiah's case, I was writing about someone who would be bruised for our iniquities, who would bear our sin, a suffering servant. If his family said, well, who is he, he would have to say, I don't know. I'd love to know. I know he's coming. I don't know when. I don't know exactly when, but I know he's coming and I know he's suffering.

I don't know exactly how. And all through the Old Testament from Genesis 3.15, right from the very first promise of salvation, there was a promise that the Savior who would come would suffer. Remember the words to the serpent, the coming one will crush your head even as you are crushing his heel. That very first promise says, and oh, how often it was overlooked, the Savior who comes is a Savior who will suffer. And now Peter is saying, we have come, I am an eyewitness of his sufferings.

C.S. Lewis puts it a very nice way. He says it is as you live in the New Testament era, you are like someone who has heard the first three movements of a great symphony, and it was believed that the final movement was lost, and you have discovered the final movement, and now the whole symphony makes sense. And so, the glory of the gospel is that it was prophesied by these great individuals in the Old Testament, and it was revealed to them by the Spirit of Christ indwelling them. Isn't that interesting that he says it was the Spirit of the Lord Jesus who was already at work in the prophets?

And what was he showing them? He was showing them the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow. Or actually, quite literally, what the Spirit did, says Peter, was indicating the into Christ sufferings. And some commentators think that he's actually speaking about the sufferings and the glory of Christians. I suspect he may be thinking about both, the intimate connection between the prophetic vision of the suffering and glory of Christ and the suffering and glory of believers. John Calvin puts it beautifully when he says this, that these words teach us that the church of Christ has been so constituted that the cross has been the way to victory, and in Christ death has been a passage to life. And then now, he says, this gospel has been proclaimed to you by the preachers of the gospel who have come to you, and in their preaching you have met with Jesus Christ.

And he could have stopped there. But his last word of encouragement to them at this point in their sufferings is, do you realize that the angels are looking over the ramparts of heaven? Unlike the prophets, they know who He is. Their question is not, who is He?

Their question is, what on earth is He doing? Coming and suffering and dying, immolated on the cross, despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, what on earth is He doing coming for them? And you see, when that begins to dawn upon you, and you look to the Christ who has come to suffer and die for you, then that puts an entirely different hue on your own sufferings, and you learn to look to Jesus Christ. And in Jesus Christ, you are established in believing, you are directed in doing, and you are comforted in suffering. The Christian life can be an uphill struggle, but in the Christian life you don't go down the gears when you go up the hill.

You go up the gears to Jesus Christ. I've never forgotten a little song I learned as a youngster, when the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He alone has power to keep, fix your eyes upon Him. Jesus is a faithful friend.

He will keep you to the end, one on whom you can depend, so fix your eyes upon Him. And that ultimately is what puts glory into the things that otherwise would grieve us. It surely is a very great privilege, isn't it, to be a Christian. It is a great privilege, and I'm thankful for Dr. Ferguson and the Apostle Peter's reminder today.

That was Sinclair Ferguson, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. If you'd like to hear Dr. Ferguson five days a week, then search for his devotional podcast, Things Unseen, wherever you listen to podcasts. Today's message was from Dr. Ferguson's new series, Sojourners and Exiles, and you can own the complete 12-part series when you give a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. And while you wait for the DVD to arrive, log into the free Ligonier app and begin streaming this series and reading the digital study guide. Give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org or when you call Ligonier Ministries at 800-435-4343. Thank you. I look forward to you joining us tomorrow as we continue this journey through 1 Peter here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-20 02:23:46 / 2024-02-20 02:32:13 / 8

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