2017-3-19 Love One Another…Earnestly

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 19, 2017

“Love One Another…Earnestly”
Text: 1 Peter 1:22-25

We again continue in our sermon series through 1 Peter, and this epistle gives us inestimably valuable teaching in answer to this question: Regarding these times, how then shall we live?[1]  We see a number of troubling facts regarding our time.  We note brazen defiance and renunciation of God at a rate alarming—yea, at a rate exponential.  We also note the near-ubiquitous moral relativism in our time—a situation akin to that of God’s covenant people in the time of the judges (ca. 1400-1000 B. C.): “In Israel there was no king; everyone did what was right in his eyes” (Judges 21:25).  We furthermore see in our land, in our time, increasing difficulties for Christian disciples.  Obviously, we are not Home—and this letter is a timely one for those, who, like John Bunyan Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, tread toward the Celestial City.

Our situation is not unique, and—lets us keep proper perspective—it is nowhere near as dire as other situations in Christian history.  We think of the persecuted Church today, and this gives us both pause for reflection and impetus for prayer.  We also think of the price paid by the Protestant reformers, many of whom paid for their advocacy for a return to Biblical faith with their very lives.  We think way back to the intermittent mistreatment of Christians under Roman authority—noting at least ten separate local to systemic persecutions before Constantine decreed Christianity the official religion of the Empire in A. D. 311.  Even the Christians to whom Paul writes may labor under opposition and other difficulties.  We must simply interject, “What a timely letter to our time—and to every time in Christ’s providential history.”

We came to the heart of the matter in 1 Peter 1:13; let’s review what we have heard so far.  We have heard, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  We also have heard, “Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”  Today, we hear this, from the Lord, via Peter’s Spirit-led pen, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”  Let us hear more of this in God’s written Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Last week, a single imperative dominated the text, namely, “Conduct yourselves with fear….”  This is true again this week.  We are to love one another earnestly—and that from a pure heart.  The Lord, through Peter, calls us to love one in view of us having purified our souls.  We do this, not with soap, detergent, water, or organic solvent, but by our obedience to the truth.  This obedience is prima facie evidence of the soul’s purification.  We are not perfect in this—we are not wholly pure until He comes or we arrive Home, whichever comes first—yet our obedience must be reasonably consistent and ever-increasing.  This purification, fundamentally, is the Spirit’s work, yet we have an important part to play.  We are to wrestle against the world, the flesh, and the devil in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We are to walk out, in practical ways, that victory which Christ won decisively—and unalterably—at Calvary.

We do this into a genuine brotherly love.  The Greek word (philadelphia [filadelfia]) for this brotherly love is an exact cognate of our great American city in southeastern Pennsylvania—Philadelphia, which calls itself the city of brotherly love.  When the New Testament human authors use this term, they mean love for fellow Christian believer.  This is our imperative with which to comply today: Let us love our fellow Christian earnestly.  We’ll note what earnestness entails when we come to apply the text—later in this sermon.

We who are Christ receive this command in view of one glorious truth, viz., we have been born again.  When the Lord leads His penmen to use the phrase born again, we may think of it in two senses.  Either we may view this as being born a second time, or anew (as here and in John 3:3, e. g.) or as being born from above (the alternate sense of John 3:3).  Because we are in Christ, we are new creatures (or creations).  Old things have passed away, and, behold, all things are as new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Moreover, because we have died, and because our live is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), we love our fellow Christian earnestly.

We are born again not of perishable seed, such as flesh, flower, grass, and so forth—which, in turn, withers, falls, and otherwise perishes (cf. Isaiah 40:7-8).  Such perishable seed is here today and gone tomorrow (cf. Matthew 6:25-34).  Rather, we are born again of imperishable seed—through the Word of God.  Peter here qualifies God’s written word with the words living and abiding.  God’s Word both lives (Hebrews 4:12) and causes us to live.  Furthermore, God’s Word remains after other things fade away—it abides even as other things perish and disappear from view.  This word—this message—is the Good News preached to us.  The news about the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, when quickened by the Spirit of the living God to the elect soul, utterly transforms that soul—and that transformation endures and deepens to eternity.

We, then, are to love one another who are in Christ earnestly.  Let us do this sincerely, and not in pretense.  I have a friend who attended the same university as I.  He joined a Greek-letter social fraternity, and, while at a football game one fall, noted how certain sorority ladies praised other such ladies to their faces—and then demeaned their persons to their backs.  This, obviously, is pretense, and not sincerity.

Let us not be too hard on the Greek-letter sorority sisters at my university.  The same doubtless occurs in the fraternities too.  Come to think of it, this occurs in almost any subset of society into which people form themselves.  Alas, it happens all too often in local churches, between local churches, in parachurch ministries, and so forth.  In short, it happens to distressing degree between professing Christians.

We are not called to be thus.  Our love for our fellow Christian believer must be sincere, without pretense, and it must also be fervent.  It cannot be cold—or even lukewarm.  We must extend this brotherly love in such a way that another Christian will feel himself or herself beloved of us.  This is absolutely necessary for such a time as this.  With so many forces marshalled against us by the prince of darkness himself, we cannot allow division or coolness of sentiment to infect our ranks.  Rather, my fellow beloved ones in Jesus, let us love one another (1 John 4:7).  May God empower our obedience, may He bless us abundantly, and may He make us a blessing far beyond what we may ask or even imagine.

AMEN.

[1] This question puts me in mind of the title of one of Francis Schaeffer’s books, to wit, How Then Shall We Live?.

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