Years ago, John Wesley wrote:
“I want to know one thing: the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book! Oh give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me.”
We can be grateful that like John Wesley, we DO have that book: the Bible, the word of God. It is what God uses to save us, and instruct us. It is the foundation of our lives as Christians, as I Peter 1 reminds us here:
“… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
‘All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.’
And this is the word which was preached to you.”
I. THE PERISHABLE FOUNDATION OF MAN’S GLORY
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls off”
These words are actually a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8, as some of your Bibles will indicate. They point out the temporary nature of mankind here on earth, and the very brief nature of the most glorious things we can accomplish.
It says “all flesh” — every human being — is like “GRASS.”
And “all its glory” — our pride, achievements, accomplishments — are like the flower of grass: they are only temporary; lasting such a brief time.
This same concept is reiterated all through scripture:
— Psalm 103 says, “as for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes; when the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.”
— Psalm 90, speaking of mankind, says: “in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew; in the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew, toward evening it fades and withers away …”.
— James 4:14 says “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
The Bible says our life here is brief: it’s like grass; like a flower; like a vapor. We are here for a short time, and then we are GONE — and all of our accomplishments, all the things we worked so hard for, and were so proud of — these will all perish as well, into the dust.
Rameses II is considered by many to be the greatest of all the Egyptian Pharaohs, reigning 1200 years before Christ. He had military success, enormous wealth, and built great cities, temples, and monuments honoring himself. In the early 1820’s British explorers found one of Rameses’ statues, crumbling in the midst of the Egyptian desert. The British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a poem about it called Ozymandias, (which was another of Rameses’ names) and it quotes the inscription that was found on the base of Rameses’ statue. It reads:
“‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Rameses and his works were indeed glorious once upon a time. But that time was brief. And now all his cities; all his glory; and even his own statue honoring himself, have now crumbled into the dust.
So it is with all the glory of men. It is so brief:
— Hussein Bolt seemed unbeatable for several Olympics — but now he has had to retire. His day is over. Today’s “star athlete” is tomorrow’s forgotten man.
— I recently read of an actor, who was the “sex symbol” of his day, but he got too old to get the starring roles any more. He told a young, rising actor: “Enjoy it while you can.” Soon it will be gone.
— Back in 2009 I bought a black Toyota Camry; and it was beautiful. People kept telling me it looked like a Lexus or a Mercedes. I loved that car. But that was 10 years ago. Now it has scratches and dents, and is in such bad condition that only our son Michael is worthy of driving it! That is the fate of every car; that’s the end of every home; it’s the outcome of all fame: “It’s glory is like the flower of grass.”
That’s not being negative, that’s not being pessimistic, that is just reality.
All this stuff will not last. Its glory is like grass. DO NOT build your life around these temporal things.
Wilbur Wright, who with his brother Orville built and flew the first airplane, said: “A man who works for the immediate present and its immediate rewards is nothing but a fool.” (Wilbur Wright, quoted in David McCullough, The Wright Brothers, p. 246)
We must not live for the temporary things of this world; we’ve got to live for something more; something that will last — and that ‘something” is found in the eternal word of God:
II. THE IMPERISHABLE FOUNDATION OF GOD’S WORD
:24b-25a “the grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Everything we can accomplish and acquire in this world is temporary, but I Peter says God’s word will stand forever. We see this all through the Bible:
— We mentioned that :24-25 here quote Isaiah 40:6-8. In its original context in Isaiah, God gave those words in promise to His people who were in captivity in Babylon that He would restore Israel once again; that the nations that oppressed them would come and go – but HIS WORD to them would not fail. And His word did NOT fail. The nation that enslaved Israel, Babylon, crumbled and fell on the pages of history; but God’s chosen people remained. They did return to Israel, just like He promised, and produced the Messiah who would be the Savior of the world. The great empire of Babylon fell, but God’s word to His people stood firm.
— God said in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
— The word of God abides forever. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.”
— Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
His word does not pass away. Every generation, a new group of so-called “intellectuals” rises up and declares that the Bible is “outdated” and “full of errors and myths”, and predict that it will soon fade into history. And every generation, the Bible shows again its power to save and change lives. Because this is not just a collection of myths and tales; this is the word of the Living God!
As II Timothy 3:16 says: “All scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”
As Hebrews 4 says, “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
God’s word is still alive and working today. That same Book of Isaiah that tells us that the word of God will abide forever, predicted in Isaiah 53 of the Suffering Servant, who would come and bear our iniquities in His body. Written 800 years before Jesus was ever born, Isaiah 53 is a powerful picture of what Jesus came to do — and it still works in lives today. In Russia, just a few years ago, there was a Muslim young man, who had been troubled by what he had heard about Christianity, so he began to read the Bible for himself. As he read the Old Testament, and passages like Isaiah 53, he said:
“As I researched more, I found Old Testament prophecies that predicted the coming of the Messiah. These prophecies talked of the one who would be the Son of David, who would suffer for the sins of mankind, who would be called Immanuel (God with us). I wanted to discount these prophecies, but had a hard time doing so because I knew that these prophecies could not have been forged by Christians – they were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born”! And as a result of reading the word of God, this young man ended up turning away from Islam, and surrendering to Jesus as the Lord & Savior of his life.
God’s word is indeed “living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” It was true when God gave it thousands of years ago; it has continued to be true, and it will always be true. People today are telling us: “You can’t base your life on a book that was written 2000 years ago; it’s not relevant for us today. It’s ‘outdated’ when it talks about morality, and homosexuality, and marriage, and life beginning in the womb.” Listen: it is those who REJECT God’s word who are foolishly building their lives on sinking sand. What authority do they have for what they believe, other than their own feelings, and popular opinion, both of which change with the wind! Anchor your life on the unchanging word of God! “The grass withers and the flower falls off — but the word of God abides forever.” Build your life on what God says in His eternal word!
III. THE ETERNAL SALVATION HIS WORD GIVES
And what does the word of God point to? Ultimately, it points us all to salvation through Jesus Christ, to what we call being “born again”:
Verse 23 says: “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
A. SALVATION from the word
The most important thing the word of God tells us is how to be saved.
You get “born again”, or saved, NOT from the “perishable seed” of this world, but by the “imperishable,” living word of God.
This is what Romans 10 tells us: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” When the Gospel of Jesus is preached — as Paul said in I Corinthians 15, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures …” — then God’s Holy Spirit takes that word, and works in your heart, and you are saved. You hear the message; you believe it; God’s Spirit comes in; and you are saved. But this happens as you hear and respond to the word of God. It is trusting that message of Christ crucified that saves you.
We need to remember this. We are saved by trusting the word of God, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” — not anything else.
I remember sitting in a church one day years ago, listening to a young lady give what was supposed to be her “testimony.” She said, “Before I went ‘down to the front,’ I didn’t know if I was going to heaven. I knew I needed to ‘go down to the front.’ Then one Sunday I did go ‘down to the front.’ And since I went ‘down to the front,’ now I know I am going to heaven!” I just cringed when I heard that. “Going down to the front” doesn’t save anyone! You can “go down to the front” every Sunday from now till the day you die and it won’t save you. “Going down to the front” doesn’t save you; only putting your faith in what Jesus did, dying on the cross for your sins, saves you. Now I HOPE that when she said “going down to the front,” that what she really meant was that she trusted Jesus death on the cross. But we need to be careful when we say things like that, because:
— “going down to the front” doesn’t save
— getting baptized doesn’t save
— joining the church doesn’t save
You are saved when you hear the eternal message of the word of God that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and put your trust in that Jesus as the Lord & Savior of YOUR life. If you have responded to that message with repentance and faith, you are saved. If you have NOT done that, then you are NOT saved — and you need to do it today! Because nothing else will save you. You must be “born again” by responding to the gospel of Jesus, “the living and enduring word of God.”
B. The MINISTRY of the word.
And because of this, we need to remember as a CHURCH that the people we are ministering to will only be saved by hearing and responding to the word of God. THAT is how lives are changed — by hearing and responding to the living word of God. So we need to make sure that is where our emphasis is, and where our trust is as a church in our ministries.
The Apostle Paul said of his ministry to the Corinthians: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul said he didn’t come to impress the Corinthians with “gimmicks”; he said he just preached to them the gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified.
That needs to be our commitment as a church, too. SO many churches and pastors these days are seeking the latest “fad” or “gimmick” that will really “draw people in.” I’ve sat and listened to pastors ask other pastors, “What’s the latest thing; what new program do you have?” So many are desperately looking for the latest “gimmick” that someone might have to attract people to their church. Listen, you may be able to draw a big crowd with programs and gimmicks, but you will not have built a church of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we just saw, Christ’s church is built when people hear and respond to the Gospel, the word of God, about Jesus Christ crucified.
We don’t need to look for the magic “silver bullet” that is really going to make our church grow; God has already given us the “silver bullet”: it is called the Gospel! It is the word of God! Let’s preach and teach His word, and as we do, God’s Holy Spirit will draw people to Himself through it. If we draw people here in any other way, it will not last. They will only stay as long as the gimmicks keep coming. They will be as temporary as the flower of grass. And that’s exactly what you see happen in a lot of churches. So let’s make sure that our church doesn’t stoop to that. Let’s make sure our ministry here at First Baptist Church is always about preaching and teaching the word of God, laying a firm foundation of genuine, Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ. Fads & gimmicks will come and go; but the word of God abides forever!
C. The ASSURANCE of the word
And finally, notice there is also a great word of assurance for those who have truly believed the message of the Gospel. He tells us here in :23: “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable.”
He says, you have been “born again” of “imperishable seed.” “Imperishable”! That means that what God has done in you when He saved you is not temporary. When you truly respond to the word of God, He saves you, and you “will not perish.” It is just like John 3:16 says: “whoever believes in Him WILL NOT PERISH but have eternal life.” God says, He has NOT given you a “temporary fix;” He has given you “eternal life.”
Just before our son Michael left college in South Carolina to come and join us here at home, he had a little accident. It wasn’t bad, but it did tear up the front bumper of that old black Camry a little bit. But his dorm was closed, and he had to leave there and get here in Texas as soon as possible, so he went ahead and left. But as he drove, he noticed that part of the bumper was kind of “flapping” in the wind as he drove, so shortly after he left, he stopped at a store and got some duct tape (“man’s best friend”, duct tape!) and just taped part of that bumper back up so it could make the drive here. It did work, but I’m pretty sure that duct tape is about to wear out! We’re going to have to do something more permanent for that before he heads back to college. That was just a temporary fix; it wasn’t permanent.
But I Peter 1 says here: Listen, what God did in your life when He saved you was not temporary. He didn’t just put some “duct tape” on your life to tide you over a little bit. No, when He saved you, He sent His Holy Spirit into your life and caused you to be “born again of imperishable seed.” He gave you “eternal life” — NOT “temporary life” — ETERNAL life! If you have truly given your life to Jesus, you can be confident that you WILL NOT PERISH.
— Yes, you are going to have some “ups & downs;”
— yes, you are going to have days when you fail.
— Yes, you may even have some days when you don’t “feel” like you are saved.
But if you truly gave your life to Jesus, you were born again of “imperishable seed” by the word of God and the Holy Spirit, and You have everlasting life that can never be taken away! Put your trust in that: not your feelings, or your circumstances, but in the promise of the never-changing word of God!
Just like the old hymn says:
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent word.
What more can He say, than to you He hath said;
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
The question is: do you really have the confidence of the words of that great hymn? Have you ever really heard the gospel message, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” and have you believed that in your heart, and surrendered your life to Him? Remember, the question is NOT:
— “did you get baptized”?
— it is NOT “did you join the church”?
— it is NOT “did you go down to the front”?
The question is: did you hear the message of the cross, and believe it. Have you been saved through the never-changing word of God, and do you know that through it, you have eternal life?
If you haven’t, you can today!