November 15, 2020

Work In Progress

Passage: 1 Peter 2:1-10

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel took an enormous amount of time to complete.  Especially as the work of a single artist.  It was done in two phases.  The first phase was the magnificent ceiling frescos between 1508-1512 and the second was the Last Judgment executed many years later from 1535-1541.  Additional alterations on the Last Judgment were made even later with the addition of loincloths out of concerns by prudish clerics.  With all of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, there were some that waited in anticipation as Work In Progress continued.  You know that’s how we should think of our lives as a workmanship of Jesus Christ till the end of time – we are Work In Progress.  Sometimes we look at other Christians and we think they really should come across more mature.  But you know we should rather look at ourselves like a woman who told me in a previous ministry, “I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years, but last week I acted like a little immature girl when I had an argument with my best friend.  I hurt her feelings and now I have to take the step to go and make things right.”  Can you appreciate with me that there is still some work God has to do on each one of us?  We cannot have the assumption, “Well I’m just perfect in every way.”  There’s a song called “He’s Still Working On Me” and It goes like this:

“There really ought to be a sign upon my heart.  Don’t judge me yet, there’s an unfinished part.  But I’ll be perfect just according to His plan.
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands.
He’s still working on me to make me what I ought to be.”                                                 

There is great truth in this song.  We all have to acknowledge – “I will be what I ought to be when God is done working on me.”

In 1 Peter 2 the apostle tells us how God goes about to bring our lives to the masterpieces He planned for us.  The first is – 1 Rid Yourselves Of Sin.  We read in verse 1, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.”  You might think – “But that sounds as if we ourselves do the Work In Progress.  We have to rid ourselves from sin.”  No my friends, that’s not the way to look at this verse.  You see in the previous chapter we read about the cleansing we underwent in the blood of Jesus Christ.  It was God’s work to have sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  We didn’t have anything to do with that when Jesus’ blood was poured out to wash us clean from sin!  It was God’s master plan of salvation for the world.  It was said of Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf that he never felt the need to be transformed from one state in his life to another.  He continuously asked, “From what do I need to be washed?”  But then one day he saw a painting of the crucifixion with blood running from Christ…and he felt like his whole life was worthless.  He took the step to accept the salvation Jesus offered him, for he couldn’t forget what was written at the bottom of the painting – “This, I have done for you.  What are you willing to do for me?”  von Zinzendorf later became a bishop in the Moravian church.  God washed him from his sins.

And now in chapter 2 of his first letter, Peter begins to point out, “Since God did this, therefore you have to rid yourselves from sins.”   And to rid ourselves from sin is never something we can do in our own power.  We have to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives.  Because you see, our sinful nature still craves what it has always craved.  Our sinful nature is directly opposed to what the Holy Spirit wants.  Can you recall what St. Paul expressed in Romans 7: 22&23? “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”  Perhaps we think it’s a bit too strong as Paul put it in these words –   “…waging war…”  But you see, to rid yourself of sin is sometimes like a war in a person’s life.  O my friends, there are many pages in the Bible we can read about people who felt almost defeated, because their sins brought charges against them that piled up so high that they thought – “My life is doomed!”  David came before God in Psalm 32 and expressed his agony in verses 3 and 4, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”      

Peter listed a few things we have to rid ourselves of:
– malice – the intention or desire to do evil.  More specifically this refers to ill will toward someone with the intent to do harm.
– deceit – this means to trick or mislead someone.
– hypocrisy – acting in a way that contradicts your stated beliefs.  This word literally means to wear a mask.
– envy – desiring to have a quality, possession, or other desirable characteristic of someone else.
– slander – making false and damaging statements about someone.

I don’t want us to take turns to confess how many of these things are present as sins in our lives.  But you see, Peter wants to remind us – sin isn’t just about stealing or committing murder or fraud.  There are many symptoms of sin we have to get rid of – even more than these 5 Peter mentioned in this letter.  God brings His Spirit to convict us to rid ourselves of things grieving Him.   And when through His Spirit we conquered those things He can continue a Work In Progress in our lives.

Peter continues – 2 Desire The Word Of God.  He wrote in verse 2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”
New-born babies get their nourishment from milk.  As Christians we get spiritual nourishment from the Word of God.  A baby cannot live long without milk, and a Christian cannot grow without studying the Word of God.  Peter says that we should desire personal fellowship with God through His Word each day.  John R. Stott once said – “A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her.  So if we love the Lord Jesus, we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of Him.”  Is the Word of God that to us?  Do we truly meditate day and night on the Word of God as we read in the 1st Psalm?  You know, I thought of something – if we go and knock at the doors of 10 houses, in how many do you think will we find a bible?  Though it’s the Book of all books and translated in 700 languages in the world as of September of this year, it isn’t read enough.  My friends, how can we develop a desire for the Word of God?  You have to take it and read it and read it even more and you have to meditate on passages.  After that you have to read up about passages and develop a deeper desire for what God will bring to your life.  The Bible is extremely important in the Work In Progress of our lives.  A Christian motivational speaker once said, “You need a manual to operate a device.  Think of the Bible as God’s manual that you need to read each day of your life.”
Peter says “…so by it you may grow up in your salvation…”  Growing up in your salvation is not becoming more saved than at the moment of conversion.  It’s not becoming more pardoned than when converted.  It’s not becoming more justified than at salvation.  Christian growth is experiencing and understanding the love of God.  Christian growth is learning more of what God wants through His Word…to live out what we find on the pages of God’s Word.

O my friends, when we hear all these thoughts the apostle Peter wrote to his readers who were scattered all over the world of his time, we know how much it applies to us.  Each one of us has to pray, “Lord, do Your Work In Progress in my life.”  Is that what we all desire?  We can’t pretend to be more the people than what we really are.  We need God’s grace.  Let’s allow Him to bring it to us.