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Our Favorite Story

Sermon 1841 1 Peter 1.9-12 February 5, 2023

“What in the world is going on up there?” she wondered. It was 7:30 and the boys were getting their books read to them. Grandpa was visiting, so they demanded he read to them before bedtime. But there was growling and snarling, the ceiling practically rattled from stomping feet. She went upstairs and found the mattress had been taken out of the crib and made into a gangway with one boy marching all the stuffed animals up the mattress and filling the crib. Grandpa and the two boys looked at her face in the doorway and went silent. She closed the door, not waiting for an answer. In the morning her youngest volunteered, “Jesus brought the animals onto Noah’s Ark!”

The next night she heard a shout like “Aaaaah!” and then a thud on the floor, like someone had fallen. Then there was an animated discussion, “My turn. My turn.”

Again she tip-toed upstairs and cracked open the door just a little. One of her sons lay on the floor with a rolled up sock squarely on his forehead and Grandpa had a belt dangling out of his hand. The deceased sprang to life and said, “My turn. I get to be Jesus.” Grandpa put the sock in the belt while the other boy acted menacingly (it wasn’t hard for him). He let go of the sock and “Jesus” directed the rolled up sock to his brother’s forehead. “Aaaaah!” Thud.

No wonder story time lasts an hour when Grandpa is in town. He knew their favorite story.

Our Favorite Story

1. Foretold by the Spirit of Jesus (9-11).

2. Fulfilled for us by Jesus (12).

“You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

That’s how Peter starts out our text for today. We are receiving the goal of our faith. He doesn’t leave us guessing as to what that goal is. It isn’t a prosperous life. It isn’t a handsome spouse and charming children. It is “the salvation of our souls.” The goal of our faith is heaven. That’s where we will enjoy an eternal rescue from death. That’s where the devil will no longer be able to tempt us. In heaven we won’t have a sinful human nature to constantly make us stumble and fall in our walk with Jesus. As the hymn says, “Heaven is my home.”

But Peter says we are receiving it now—“You are receiving.” People don’t just go to heaven. They don’t just pop up at the pearly gates. That’s as unrealistic as thinking a kid will sign up for a Pop Warner football team and the next moment play in the Super Bowl. To compete in sport on a professional level takes a great deal of natural talent, a pile of luck and a mountain of hard work over the years.

Getting to heaven is part of that plan of salvation. First, the message has to reach us. We have to hear about Jesus, his suffering and death, his resurrection and return to heaven. Without hearing about Jesus we cannot believe in him. Faith comes from hearing the message of Christ, the Apostle Paul told the Romans. So when the Gospel comes to us, we are receiving the goal of our salvation. God gets us to heaven by faith alone which comes to us through the Gospel alone.

That message is not just a story, like it is some initiation myth everybody has to know to be part of the group. That message has to be the true life events of Jesus recorded for people to hear and believe. Forget about once upon a time or in a galaxy long ago and far away. This is history. This happened. In this sense we are receiving the goal of our salvation. You can’t have salvation, a rescue from sin, death and the devil, without the rescuer—Jesus.

Our favorite story is Jesus and he is in every story, be it making the animals show up at Noah’s Ark to directing the stone slung by David against Goliath to crying out from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus is the story, the story of our salvation.

Our favorite story was foretold for centuries by the Spirit of Jesus.

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (10-11).”

Does it happen if nobody has a camera? Think how much our society has changed because of the prevalence of cameras, be they the old camcorders, surveillance cameras or the photographic lenses on our smart phones. Nothing happens in public (and sometimes in private) without the camera rolling. The person taking the shot, however, is not the center of attention. The person in the field of view is the center of attention, be it a climber clinging to the face of a rock cliff or a future Hall of Famer watching the baseball fly off his bat into the outfield seats.

The Spirit of Christ was the camera before I Phones or security systems. The Holy Spirit focused the lens, turned the attention of believers, onto Jesus. The Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to record the works and deeds of Jesus before they happened! That’s why, when Jesus came, it was so easy for believers to put two and two together and come up with Jesus as the answer. A virgin birth? True God and truly human? Born in Bethlehem? Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver? Crucified with not a bone broken? Tossed in a borrowed tomb? Raised to life on the third day? Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus is the answer.

So long before it happened the Holy Spirit said Jesus would happen, promised Jesus would happen. That is the end of all argument. Smart businessmen make contracts and set up policies all agree to long before a situation may arise where they need to make a decision. Close contracts make close friends, my old Mission Board Chairman would tell me when we were getting started. Hammer out the details beforehand. Before Jesus came into the world, the Holy Spirit predicted what he would do, who he would be, what the effects of his work would be. Hard to dismiss event after event in Jesus’ life as coincidence when it was predicted hundreds of years before his birth. Our favorite story, the story of Jesus, was foretold by the Spirit of Jesus.

Our favorite story was fulfilled for us by Jesus.

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (12).”

Maybe Grandpa had his finger on something. The stories about Jesus are our favorite story because we are in them. Every victory of Jesus is a victory for us. He guided the stone to destroy Goliath so his ancestor, David, wouldn’t be shish-kabobbed on Goliath’s spear. Jesus gathered the animals for Noah so we could have our puppy and kitty, as well as fried chicken on the table. Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins, for your sins. Jesus rose again from the dead to prove we would rise from the dead. There was nothing standing between us and eternal life with God in heaven.

I suppose this is the reason history bores most people to death unless it is the story of their family, how great grandpa left the old country and lived for a while in Chicago. They want to hear again how dad met mom when he stopped his snowplow to pull a stranded driver (her!) from the half-buried car. Grandpa realized the story of Jesus is the story of our salvation. The prophets weren’t writing for themselves. They scratched their heads and dove deeply into their study of Scripture to try and find out when these wonderful things would happen. It wasn’t going to be during their lives. They were writing for a future generation, for you, for me, so we might know our sins are forgiven and heaven is won. Jesus did it all for us.

That is the message which has come down to you and me today. We are hearing it right now. Yes, our sinful human nature wants us to doze off. The devil wants us to believe it is somebody else’s story, maybe your mother’s story, but not ours. And the world is so busy making such a racket with car crashes, police sirens, protest marches and social outrage, you can’t even hear the message of Jesus in some places anymore. The sound is so loud people have gone deaf. And, yes, all of those have distracted us at times. We didn’t pay attention the way we should have.

But the Spirit of Jesus still brought that message to us, foretold by the prophets, told to us by the apostles, the eyewitness followers of Jesus and retold to us by parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, Christian relatives, friends and neighbors.

Our Favorite Story

1. Foretold by the Spirit of Jesus (9-11).

2. Fulfilled for us by Jesus (12).

All that week she wanted to ask her father what he was doing to bedtime for the boys. Oh, they were getting to sleep, though she suspected it was more from exhaustion than from calming them down. But she decided against it, afraid that he would say something like, “You wouldn’t understand.” But she couldn’t help feeling a little bit of envy. Would that she could be one of those Grandpa was “reading” the Bible stories to at bedtime.

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