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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
 
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
  www.users.bigpond.net.au/avdelden/Sermons.htm
 
Title:Since you have purified your souls by the truth of Godís word, love one another with a pure heart
Text:1 Peter 1:22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2004-03-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: 1 Peter 1:22

Reading: 1 Peter 1

AM
Ps. 81:1,2,3
Ps. 81:7,8,9
Ps. 16:1
Hy. 19:1,2,3
Ps. 133:1,2

PM
Ps. 84:1,5
Ps. 84:,6
Ps. 16:1
Hy. 19:1,2,3
Ps. 133:1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Traumas in life have quite an effect upon relationships. Couples or friends who go through difficult times often find that their marriage or friendship is either strengthened or destroyed. Trying times either bring people closer together, or they drive people apart.

Why the difference? There are probably more reasons than one, but certainly one reason for the difference depends on whether a couple or friends are selfish or self-less.

Those who are selfish seek their own well being first, even at the cost of others. Those who are self-centred are not ready to sacrifice themselves for the well being and happiness of others. In troubled times, those who are self-centred get so wrapped up in their own sorrow and grief that they cannot minister to the sorrow and grief of others. They feel so sorry for themselves that all their compassion is directed only to themselves. Their attention is so centred on their own feelings that they give no thought to the feelings of others. They feel that they have lost so much that they are not prepared to make any more sacrifices for others. Those who are self-centred will find that their relationship with others is destroyed when they experience difficulties in life.

But couples or friends who are not selfish or self-centred will seek the well being of the other first, even at the cost of themselves. Those who are self-less are ready to sacrifice themselves for the well-being and happiness of others. They are not wrapped up in self-pity, and they can minister to the needs of others who are sad and grieving. And even though they themselves have suffered loss, they are prepared to sacrifice still more for the well being of others. These are the people who find that their marriage or friendship is strengthened by the difficulties they experience in life.

Now we have spoken about selfishness and selflessness. We could also speak about love and a lack of love. For love is the readiness and willingness to put the well-being and happiness of another before oneís own well being or happiness. Love is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for another.

It is this love that Peter exhorts the persecuted Christians in Asia to show to one another. I preach to you the Word of God with this theme:

SINCE YOU HAVE PURIFIED YOUR SOULS BY THE TRUTH OF GODíS WORD, LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH A PURE HEART

We will consider:
1) What they did
2) How they did it
3) Why they did it
4) What they must still do

WHAT THEY DID THEY PURIFIED THEIR SOULS

Peter has spoken in earlier verses about the important events that occurred in the lives of these Christians in Asia wonderful events that changed their lives dramatically. They were elected by the Father to be His own special people. They were sprinkled with the blood of Christ, which means that they were incorporated into the covenant of grace. They were also born again. By nature they were dead in sins, but they were made spiritually alive again. And through the working of the Spirit, they were set free from their former ignorance and corrupt conduct.

In light of all this, Peter writes in our text, Since you have purified your souls. This is something that has already happened in the past, with consequences for their present lives.

The word that Peter uses for purify is taken from the OT. It refers to the washing that God required of those who would have communion with Him. Throughout the OT, those who would come into the presence of God had to be outwardly clean. But the outward washing of the body was only a symbol of what was needed inwardly, namely, the washing of the soul. The saints of the OT knew this and sang about it. Think of Psalm 24:4. Who may ascend into the hill of God. Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Or Psalm 51:10. Create in me a clean heart, O God!

Peter emphasises this inward washing. He says, Since you have purified your souls. What does it mean to purify oneís soul? It means cleansing the mind of sinful thoughts. It means cleansing the heart of corrupt desires. It means ridding the soul of evil dispositions and inclinations.

Now Peter says that the Christians in Asia had purified their souls. They possessed renewed minds and pure hearts. Oh no, that doesnít mean that these Christians were left without any remnants of indwelling sin. It does not mean that they were perfect. But what it does mean is that where there was once only rebellion and wickedness, there is now a prompt and sincere beginning of obedience to all of Godís command≠ments.

Notice that Peter stresses the activity of these Christians in this process of purification. He says, ďSince you have purified your souls. We might have expected him to write, Since your souls have been purified.

[1] (Some manuscripts have the words, through the Spirit, and the NKJ follows these manuscripts. But many other manuscripts, and very ancient ones, do not have these words. As a result, most English translations do not include these words in our text. In the end, it makes little difference, because already in v. 2 Peter mentioned that this sanctification occurred through the Spirit.)

By writing you have purified your souls, Peter emphasises that the Christians were not passive in this process of purification. They had a role to play in the purification of their souls. They could do nothing of and by themselves, for by nature they were dead in sins. But having been made spiritually alive, they became active in their inward purification. They were called to purify their souls, and they did.

Now it is good for us to pay a little attention to this. For the fact that we can do nothing of and by ourselves might make us entirely passive. But that would not be correct. For once the renewing Spirit acts upon us, we begin to act (cf. CD III/IV,12). Once the Spirit begins to purify us, we are activated so that we begin to purify ourselves. And we must. It is a command of Scripture. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean! (Isa 1:16). Wash your handspurify your hearts (Jms 4:8). Since we too must cleanse our souls, we do well to listen as Peter describes how this happened in the case of the Christians in Asia. This is our second point.

HOW THEY DID IT BY OBEDIENCE TO THE TRUTH

Peter writes that these Christians in Asia have purified their souls by obeying the truth.

[2] (Iíve made one small change in the translation of these words. Whereas the NKJ speaks about ďin obeying the truth it could be better translated as by obeying the truth.)

The truth is the instrument by which these Christians purified their souls.

This agrees with the words of our Lord Jesus who prayed for His disciples, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. And again two verses later, that they also may be sanctified by the truth (John 17:17,19).

Peter says that these Christians obeyed the truth. The word obey in the Greek comes from the word ďto listen to.Ē We use the same words in the same way. When we say that children listen to their parents, we mean more than just hearing what they say. Children also take heed and do as they are told. This is what Peter also has in mind. These Christians purified their souls by listening to the truth, and acting according to it.

This is just the opposite of what happened in paradise. Adam and Eve listened to the lie, and acted on it. They heard the words of the serpent. They accepted those words as true and allowed them to be embedded in their minds. And this lie brought forth corrupt thoughts and evil desires, and ultimately led to sin. In this sense we can say that Adam and Eve obeyed the lie. They listened to the lie, accepted it as true, and acted upon it.

What Peter describes is just the opposite of what happened in paradise. These Christians heard the truth, the Word of God. And through the working of the Spirit, they accepted the Word of God as truth. This Word of God was firmly embedded in their minds. And being firmly embedded there, it brought forth good thoughts and noble desires, which ultimately led to good works in their lives. This is what Peter means when he says that they obeyed the truth.

Now you can also understand how their souls were purified by obeying the truth. If the Word of God is firmly embedded in our mind and heart, it drives out all evil thoughts and wicked desires. Iíll give some examples of this.

In the world we are confronted with the lie of greed and materialism, which says that money will bring us joy and satisfaction. And we are tempted to buy lottery tickets. But when we study the Word of God, we learn that material wealth does not bring joy or satisfaction in itself. If we listen to the what Godís Word says and accept it as true, then the truth destroys the desires of greed which were aroused by the lie. By obeying the truth, we purify our souls. We rid our minds of sinful thoughts and our hearts of evil desires. The result is that we no longer want to buy a lottery ticket.

Consider another example. In the world we are confronted with the lie that one can derive great pleasure from sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. So young men search the Internet for dirty pictures, and young couples engage in pre-marital sex, and married men commit adultery. But the Word of God tells us that such immorality gives only fleeting pleasure. What is sweet in the mouth becomes bitter in the stomach. Though sexual immorality might give momentary pleasure, it brings lasting grief. Now by obeying this truth, young men, young couples and married men purify their souls of the evil desires that arise because of the lie. The result is that they no longer want to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. The truth purifies their souls and their lives.

Now this is what the Christians in Asia have done. They have heard the truth, accepted it, and began to act according to it. In this way they purified their souls. Now let us turn to our third point, and see why they did it.

WHY THEY DID IT FOR A SINCERE LOVE OF THE BRETHREN

There are different translations of the latter part of our text. I follow the translations of the New American Standard Bible, which best expresses what I believe Peter intends to say.

Peter wrote that these Christians had purified their souls by obeying the truth for a sincere love of the brethren. We could put this more simply. Peter says that the very purpose for which they have purified their souls was that they might love their brethren.

Notice that Peter speaks about a sincere love for the brethren. Literally, Peter speaks about unhypocritical love. For he knows that it is possible for people to profess to love the brethren, but that love is not genuine. They love in words, but not in deeds. Their love is empty, hollow. The very purpose for which these Christians have purified their souls was that they might love their brethren sincerely.

From this we draw a most important conclusion. Only those who have purified their souls can love their brethren. For the unsanctified soul hates both God and the neighbour. The unpurified soul is characterised by selfish≠ness, self-centredness. The man who has not been cleansed inwardly loves only himself. He puts his own well being first, even at the cost of the well being of others.

By the grace of God, the Christians in Asia purified their souls of this selfishness. Through His Word and Spirit, God revealed to them the truth of how ugly, how ruthless and how destructive self-centredness is. When everyone seeks only his own well being and happiness, none are happy. And few experience well being for any length of time.

Someone once described his place of employment in a way that describes the destructive character of self-centredness. He worked in a work place where the employees were only concerned about their own advancement in the company. Men trampled upon the reputation of others to promote their own reputation. The lie ran rampant, and the truth was unheard. Men plotted strategies that involved the ruin of others, simply so that they might get ahead. This place of employment was like a battle ground where all employees were enemies of each other. Each was out to destroy the other in the bid for self promotion. This was an environment of fear, for each was looking over his shoulder in the expectation that someone was waiting to stab him in the back.

Can you imagine how destructive this self-centredness would be in the church of our Lord, especially in troubled times as in our text? If selfishness reigned in the hearts of these Christians, the bond that bound them together would have broken, and no one would have cared for the other. For those who are selfish seek their own well being first, even at the cost of others. Those who are self-centred are not ready to sacrifice themselves for the well-being and happiness of others. In troubled times, those who are self-centred get so wrapped up in their own sorrow and grief that they cannot minister to the sorrow and grief of others. They feel so sorry for themselves that all their compassion is directed only to themselves. Their attention is so centred on their own feelings that they give no thought to the feelings of others. They feel that they have lost so much that they are not prepared to make any more sacrifices for others.

You can imagine, then, how self-centredness would have destroyed the churches in Asia during the time of persecution. But thankfully the souls of these Christians were purified. And what Peter has in mind here is purification from selfishness, from self-centredness.

How did that happen? By obeying the truth! That is, their eyes were enlightened through the Word of God to see how destructive self-love and self-centredness is. Through the Word, they learned of a more excellent way, the way of love. They have learned this through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Out of love for His own, Christ denied His rightful glory and honour, and came into this world as a man. And as a righteous and perfectly innocent man, He offered His life as a sacrifice for the sins of His people.

In the sacrifice of Christ, the Christians in Asia saw the pure beauty of self-sacrificing love for the brethren in contrast to the ugliness of self-love. They came to understand how peacefully, how happily men could live with each other when their hearts are filled with love for one another rather than jealousy and envy and hatred. Through the sacrifice of Christ, they came to see how wonderful it is when everyone seeks the well being of one another in preference and even at the cost of their own well being.

These Christians heard the truth concerning the love of Christ, and they obeyed the truth. That is, they heard, they accepted, and they acted out of what they heard. And this obedience to the truth of the love of Christ purified their souls of selfishness, of self-centredness, of self-love.

The fact that these Christians in Asia had already purified their hearts meant that they already possessed this love for the brethren. Peter is not telling them to start loving their brethren. No, they already possess this sincere, unhypocritical love for their brethren, for their hearts have already been purified.

And yet and yet Peter comes with an exhortation. He says to them, love one another fervently with a pure heart. This brings us to our last point.

WHAT THEY MUST STILL DO LOVE ONE ANOTHER FERVENTLY

If they already possess this sincere love of the brethren, why does Peter come with this exhortation? I can think of two reasons. In the first place, these Christians were not yet perfect. Remnants of their old nature clung to them. Concretely, this means that remnants of selfishness, self-centredness, self-love clung to them, with the result that their love, although sincere, was not altogether perfect. They must strive to perfect their love for each other. This is one reason why Peter exhorts them to love one another fervently, eagerly, or earnestly.

But there is another reason why Peter exhorts them to fervently love one another. I mentioned a moment ago that these Christians were going through troubled times. And in such times, relationships are tested. This would certainly be the case for these Christians. Just imagine the possibilities. One family has been recognised as Christians. As a result all their possessions have been confiscated. They are homeless and destitute. Who would care for them? The burden would fall upon the church community. And as more and more families were impoverished, a greater and greater burden would fall upon those who still possessed means of support. To what extent would they be willing to sacrifice? It is as if Peter says to them in this situation: Donít hold back in your love. You have come to know the love of Jesus that had no limits. The truth of this love has purified your hearts. Now you love the brethren to the same extent love them fervently. Love them without limit. Be ready to share your possessions for your brotherís well being.

Picture another situation. A Christian has been captured and is being tortured. The authorities promise that if he will tell them the names of the other Christians he knows, and the secret place where they worship, he will be set free. If he refuses, they will make him a human torch, and he will be burned alive. What a difficult choice! The words of Peter address such a situation. You have come to know the love of Jesus, who gave his life as a ransom for many. You have taken heed to this truth and by doing so you have purified your hearts of all selfishness. Donít seek your own well being at the cost of your brethren. Donít selfishly cling to your life at the expense of the life of others. Love them with a perfect love. Be ready to sacrifice yourself for them.

Yes, Peter knew that traumas in life can make relationships stronger, or these same traumas can destroy relationships. And Peter doesnít want that to happen in the church. He wants the brotherly love which they have to deepen through their trials. He wants their love for one another to grow deeper and deeper.

Do I need to say much about this text for ourselves, beloved? Iím sure that many of you have purified your souls by obeying the truth. Iím sure that many of you are selfless in your love for each other. But Iím also sure, and you will undoubtedly agree, that this love is not yet perfect. Our hearts still need to purified further, for remnants of selfishness still cling to us.

Peter shows us the way to do this by reading about and taking heed to the truth concerning the selfless and self-sacrificing love of Christ Jesus our Lord. The more we meditate upon the Word of God, the more our souls will be sanctified.

Make the prayer of Christ your own, beloved. With the Bible open before you, pray: Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. In this way you will purify your hearts of all self-centredness and self-love. In this way you will love one another more and more fervently with a pure heart. AMEN

Notes:

====================
[1] The following words should only be read if the congregation is using a New King James Version.
[2] Again, the following words should be read only if the congre≠gation is using either the NKJV or the NASB.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.users.bigpond.com/avdelden/WebSermons/1PT1v22.htm

(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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