One of the great themes at Covenant College is that all of life should be lived in a Christian way, and we should transform culture to bring it into accord with God's saving work. This goal of transforming culture is similar to waging a culture war, but different in that rather than only pointing out where our opponents need to change, we actually make those changes within our own sphere of influence. A simple example is that at your workplace you should be honest and do the best job you can with the gifts God has given you. The Lord is concerned not only that you attend church services and read your Bible, but also that His saving work be applied throughout your whole life. We see that concern in this passage.
Despite their brevity, these verses provides historical and biographical background information about Peter that cannot be found except in a couple other passages. It is not good to emphasize these background details in a sermon when they don't clearly serve the the purpose of the passage or the sermon. But here they do tie together in one direction, which shows the greatness and fullness of God's concern to change not just one little part of your life, but the whole of your life.
We see this in the way Christ healed. Christ is known as the Great Physician. No physician can heal as Christ healed in this passage; human medicine is more external and limited in its effects, but Christ's healing went directly to the illness and removed it completely. This should convince you that Christ cares about your bodily illness, and He cares to redeem every aspect of your life that has been marred by sin.
Outline. This passage teaches us the depth of Christ's healing, the breadth of Christ's healing, and the point of Christ's healing.
The Way to Holiness: The Divine Perspective 1:2-27
The Trial-Temptation Complex 1:2-18
The Word of God 1:19-27
The Principles of Holiness: The Biblical Framework 2:1-26
The Law is the Structure of Holiness 2:1-13
Faith is the Dynamics of Holiness 2:14-26
The Implementation of Holiness: The Christian Experience 3:1-4:10
The Obstacle to Victory: Human Impotence 3:1-9
The Fact of Human Impotence 3:1-5
The Root of Human Impotence 3:6-9
The Nature of the Enemy Within
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.
The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
The Power of the Enemy Within
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,
8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
The Effectiveness of the Enemy Within
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
V. 6: The tongue is a tool of indwelling sin, which is our enemy within. What things does a fire do that the tongue does also? ____________________________________________________
How is the tongue "a world?" ____________________________________________________
How does the tongue influence your body and life? ___________________________________
Where does the tongue's power & influence come from? ______________________________
V. 7: How does "mankind" differ from all animals' "kinds?" ___________________________
V. 8: What does poison do? _________________ What do we do with it? _________________
V. 9: Indwelling sin can turn us 180°—from __________ to ___________! What can save us? "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom. 7:24; 8:13)
My sense of humor is shaped partly by the things I'm afraid of. I think it's so funny to get someone worrying that there might be a bear in the woods outside, and the very next night I'm chased by a bear in my dreams! I never had a younger brother to whom I could give the line that if he was disobedient, Mom and Dad could take him back to hospital like they did with his other brother who isn't here anymore! Children who are adopted sometimes worry they don't really belong in their adoptive family. But God gives us the assurance that because He adopted us, we truly belong in the family of God.
The doctrine of adoption has often been neglected in the Reformed tradition, not to mention in churches that don't like doctrine. But it is as essential to Christianity as it is to call God your "Father." You can call God your Father because through adoption He has called you his child. We confess in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms that adoption is one of the chief blessings God gives us in salvation. In this passage we learn that the way to receive this blessing of adoption is by faith in Jesus Christ. We become God's sons by faith.
To help you understand leprosy, I want you to think about the last neat freak you've met. I met one during the summer after my first year of college when I worked as a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman. The Kirby isn't a vacuum cleaner, mind you, it's a "complete home cleaning system." It's a good machine, but I'm not trying to sell it to you today. Part of the way you sell a Kirby is you attach what is called a "dirt meter" to where the vacuum's bag normally would go, and you put clean filters into it called "dust pads." Then you vacuum the floor and see how much dirt piles up in the dirt meter, and when it's full you take out the dust pad and start a pile of dust pads on the carpet, on the couch, on the customer's vacuum cleaner that didn't do its job right; wherever the dirt came from, that's where you put the dust pads. As I was doing this in an impeccably clean house, this lady's baby was crawling on the floor where all the dirt was, and that's what convinced her; she picked up her baby from that dirty floor and held it on her lap, the only clean place in the house!
You know the feeling that something is dirty and you don't want to touch it; that is what leprosy was, and the Lord used it to show that is what sin is like. One commentator said "Sin is the leprosy of the soul."
Another person who is very neat and clean himself is our new missionary doctor Jim Knox, who now has gone to serve as a doctor in a dirty place. In an email he sent out recently he gives a list of interesting details of life in Uganda. The first one reads, "Every time you wash your hands, it is like you have been out playing in the mud. Even in just walking back from the clinic, the dust can make my hands that dirty as we are in the middle of the dry season." The second reads, "Every time I take a shower I wash off so much dirt. It looks like I just have a really great tan, but it ends up being mostly the brown dust!"
I pity him if he really is bothered by all the dirt, but he knew what he was doing, and he's been there before. He went there to serve the Lord. What would make him do it? What would make Jesus do what He did in this passage?
Often Reformed churches have been charged with not engaging in evangelism as we ought. Arminians say "You trust in God's sovereignty so you don't engage in evangelism. But we believe in man's responsibility so we evangelize." And when some Reformed people recognize their weakness, fear, and even complacency in this area, they think the solution is that we must follow the good example of the door-to-door evangelism of the Baptists, or even the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses! I call it a "good example" because door-to-door evangelism is good and it is fine to practice it. But if door-to-door work is the only way you can think of to evangelize, you're in for a big surprise. Your view of evangelism is too small.
At the end of this gospel, in Matthew 28:18-20 Christ gave us His church our marching orders as we go throughout the world:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
At the beginning of this gospel, He shows you how it's done. But more than that, the whole New Testament shows you how it's done. It's done through the whole church. At the end of this sermon I want you to see and know that every part of what we do in this church is aimed at carrying out that Great Commission, every part is a means of making disciples, and every part of what we do is part of evangelism. I don't say that to make you complacent. I say it to call you to catch the vision that this church and your gifts matter evangelistically. I say it to call you to engage in all the church's work of evangelism.
Outline. This passage tells us how Christ made disciples at the beginning of His ministry. More than merely providing an example to follow, He began the evangelism of the church, and we are organically united to what He did here, and we carry that work on today. How did Christ make disciples, and how should we do it?