Posts Tagged '1 Peter'

You Should Be Committed! Part 2

Americans are plagued by stress and anxiety. Just how bad is it? In the most advanced society on the planet; in a country with unmatched prosperity and freedom, anxiety disorders are the most pervasive of all psychiatric disorders listed in the DSMV. According to the latest statistics, the annual cost to treat those suffering with anxiety disorders in America is well over 42 million dollars. Despite being the richest nation on earth, America is also the most anxious nation on earth, with nearly a third of Americans likely to suffer from an anxiety problem in their lifetime. Why is that? American philosopher and author Eric Hoffer hit the nail on the head, I think, when he wrote this:

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

The problem, of course, is that happiness in America is seen as a right; that everybody has a right to be happy, usually at any cost. And when an American isn’t happy, they get anxious and make bad decisions, making themselves even more anxious as that happiness they are looking for becomes more and more elusive. I’m sure Thomas Jefferson never dreamed that his bit about “the pursuit of happiness” would be twisted and tortured into something way beyond what he meant at the time he wrote it.

Yet according to Paul, no Christian should be anxious about anything.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 | TNIV)

“Anything” and “every” are two words that stand out in that verse because we can all find things that we think are worth being anxious about and the thought about praying with thanksgiving in every situation seems, well, unreasonable. Take the aforementioned happiness quest. Children are indoctrinated by, of all people, their parents, to believe the most important thing in the whole world is for them to be happy. Be happy no matter what. Be happy at school, even preschool when junior would rather be playing outside, discovering things on his own. Then it’s “be happy at work, even though it’s a dead-end job you hate,” because “you’re lucky to have it.” We are constantly being told to “be happy,” but we’re left up to our own devices to figure out how we make that happen! Thanks, Mom and Dad. Wouldn’t it better if Mom and Dad knew what the Bible says about the happiness issue? The reason they don’t is likely because their church doesn’t. Because the church of Jesus Christ has largely succumbed to the secular notion that “God wants you to be happy,” too. No wonder even Christians are anxiously pursuing a phantom notion.

What does the Bible say about the happiness issue? Honestly, it says nothing. Search as you might, you won’t find any red letter saying about the believer’s right to be happy. And yet it does, in a backwards, sideway way. Jesus said this about life for the believer:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 | TNIV)

That’s right and Jesus was totally honest. In this world, you won’t find happiness, but you will find heaps of trouble. The most the believer can hope for is peace in the midst of trouble, and that peace is not found in a Valium or in vodka or in a vacation, but in a Person – the Person of Jesus Christ.

That’s not to say that Jesus wants His people to be miserable, because He most certainly doesn’t. Frequently in the Gospels, Jesus began certain sayings with the phrase, “blessed is.” The Greek in behind our English word “blessed” carries with it the notion of being happy. So a Christian will find a measure of happiness by following the Beatitudes of Christ. Things like this:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12 | TNIV)

That might not be what some of you were expecting, but it is the Word of God. And this why some people find it so hard to fully commit to Jesus Christ, and hence are unhappy Christians. There is a segment of Christianity that continues to cling to notion that you can find lasting happiness in the world. It’s so baked into their psyche that they can’t stop their ultimately worthless pursuit. And you can’t have two minds if you want to follow Christ. If you’re not fully committed to Him, you will be continually disappointed – disappointed in both your faith and in the world, because you’ll be expecting something from both that they can’t give you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, answers to prayer and promised blessings will elude you. If you aren’t completely sold-out to Christ, He can’t take your world and make things work for you. Let’s face it. It’s rough being you if you aren’t fully committed to Christ.

Last time, we discussed the idea that a Christian needs to be fully committed to Christ even if it seems like his world collapsing around him. This was Paul’s situation. He had suffered greatly to share the Gospel with the lost. By the time he wrote his second letter to his pal Timothy, he was sitting in prison because he was preaching the Gospel. Yet he wrote this:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12 | TNIV)

Paul had entrusted his very life – his whole life – to God, no matter what dangers he encountered or indignities he suffered. One time in his life, the great apostle prayed for some relief, and along came God’s surprising answer:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 | TNIV)

Paul had committed his life to Christ. Peter, another great apostle, wrote about committed something else to Christ, and that’s what we’ll look at today.

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in welldoing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19 | KJ21)

More modern translations look like this:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

The KJV used the word “soul,” and that’s actually a good way to translate the Greek phrase. Peter is referring to the “inner man.” It means being committed to Christ from the inside out; your mind, your heart, you body – in every way committed to Christ. It’s a single-minded devotedness that doesn’t ignore bad times, but at the same time doesn’t let those bad times disrupt the precious relationship that exists between Christ and His follower.

Suffering for Christ is a privilege?

Peter’s advice to his readers was desperately needed. His letter was written to a bunch of Christian expats, who didn’t have it very good. Many of them didn’t possess two shekels to rub together.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | TNIV)

These people had lost everything in some cases to follow Christ. They had become exiles on account of their faith, but at the same time Peter calls them “God’s elect.” They were God’s elect, yet that didn’t disqualify them from suffering in the same way as their Lord did, and as other followers of Jesus do. But it wasn’t just any kind of suffering Peter is referring to. Later on, we’re told what the exiles were suffering for.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12, 13 | TNIV)

We don’t know what those fiery trials were, but had they not been following the teachings of Jesus Christ, they would have been just fine. Suffering on account of who Jesus is should be considered a blessing. Not all suffering, just suffering for Him.

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:15, 16 | TNIV)

Not all suffering is good. And if you suffer because of some stupid thing you did, you should be ashamed. But there’s no need for shame if your suffering is on account of your faith.

The reason for suffering

You may wonder why God allows His people to suffer like this. It’s not just a New Testament thing. For centuries Christians have, in the case of the martyrs, given their very lives for their testimony of faith. Peter gives us the reason, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 | TNIV)

That’s a chilling verse. Peter seemed to sense that the trials Christians are suffering today are really nothing less than a very long period of divine judgment or discipline. Though we are living in an age of grace, where God is not judging people and nations as we see Him doing in the Old Testament, that doesn’t mean He’s sitting idly by. God is just and He has appointed a righteous Judge.

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31 | TNIV)

Jesus Christ, our appointed Judge, knows the heart of every man; He sees what we do and how we live, but Jesus alone knows our intentions and motivations. If you read through the Old Testament, you’ll see that God always follows a pattern when it comes to discipline and judgment. It always begins with His people. The trials or problems you encounter may seem bad or unfair and difficult to endure, but God uses them to purify your faith and purge the impurities from your life. Peter wants us to know that anything negative we may experience because of our faith is nothing compared to the utter hopelessness and doom awaiting those who don’t have faith.

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19 | TNIV)

There is nothing more important than the strength of your faith. Nothing. Not even creature comforts or friends or even family. Your faith is of eternal value, and that’s why, from time-to-time, you may suffer on account of it. When that happens, you must be all the more committed to the Lord. Only He can see you through it. There can be no part-time Christians; no partially committed followers of Jesus. You’re either all in or you won’t make it. You need to be (say it with me) COMMITTED!

Peter and Jude, Part 3

How can you tell if somebody is a “follower of Jesus Christ?” Is it because they and other people call them a “Christian?” Is it because they go to church? Is it because they wear a cross? How can you tell? Peter tells us:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 | NIV84)

That’s it. A “follower of Jesus Christ” is one who follows in Christ’s steps; He learns from Christ’s example and then lives accordingly. By necessity that means following Christ will change a person’s life. For some, the changes will be drastic, and for others not so much, but every follower of Christ lives a changed life.

That’s the basis of this quick study. Let’s take a look at what kind of changes take place in a person’s life when they make the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Living blamelessly

Throughout 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote about the practical implications of one’s salvation, demonstrating that a believer’s new relationship with Christ would impact his existing relationships with the government, his employer, and his family. Being a Christian should make a person a better citizen, a better employee, and a better family member. In chapter three, Peter continues this line of thought by giving similar exhortations of a more general type. In all, Peter writes about five things a Christian should have going on in their lives.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8 | NIV84)

First, in verse 8, there’s this:

live in harmony with one another…

Christians are to “live in harmony with one another.” That sounds so easy, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to get along with certain people. Disagreements easily arise when two people talk together for just a few minutes. What does Peter have in mind here? Simply put, the character of a believer is determined and revealed by the things that are foremost in his mind. As far as Jesus was concerned, His followers should be united in a common goal and common interests. That doesn’t mean that Christians should always agree with each other on every single issue in life. But it does mean that as followers of Jesus Christ, our minds should be controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Paul had a similar thought when he wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5 | NIV84)

All believers should hold the same attitudes about things as did Jesus. Other translations refer to this as “having the mind of Christ.” His mind – His attitudes – serve as examples for us to follow. Essentially, that means that we need to adopt a Biblical worldview; a worldview that frequently, though not always, runs contrary to a secular worldview. In order to accomplish this, believers need to know the Word of God and need to follow Christ’s example.

Second, believers are to be sympathetic, also in verse 8. This means that Christians should have an active compassion for each other. In fact, the Greek word really means “suffering together.” That means Christians ought not to be selfish. What affects one believer should affect all believers.

Third, still in verse 8, Christians should love as brothers. It’s not that we form a brotherhood when we confess Christ, it’s that we become members of one big family: The family of God. Think about how you get along with your mom and dad, or your siblings. Surely you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Surely you have your disagreements. But in the end, you would probably give your life if it meant saving a member of your family. That’s the idea Peter is trying to get across using the phrase, “love as brothers.”

Fourth, believers need to be compassionate. The Greek word carries with it the idea of being “kindhearted,” to be “sensitive to the needs” of other believers. Christians should never be afraid to show genuine affection to each other.

Fifth, followers of Jesus should be humble. This kind of humility has to do with being humble in spirit – it’s the same kind of humility that characterized Jesus. Humility is a big thing in the Bible, where it paints a humble person as one who sees himself as weak or dependent upon God, one who is a finite being whose existence depends on the God he serves.

Those simple characteristics should be obvious in every believer’s life. Next, Peter tells his readers how to manifest them.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9 | NIV84)

That, of course, is exactly opposite to our natural response: We strike when stuck. But because our lives have been changed, we won’t do that. To retaliate is not the Biblical answer. Jesus taught:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44 | NIV84)

When Peter wrote that we should “bless” those who hurt us, the Greek word he used suggests that we speak well of those speaking evil of us. In other words, we treat them opposite to the way they treat us.

He then quotes from Psalm 34, which gives the believer certain guidelines to follow if he wants to live a life full of meaning and purpose.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10 – 12 | NIV84)

In all, there are three things a believer must do. First, he must keep his tongue from evil and lips from deceitful speech. If you want to live a good life and love the life you’re living, never say words calculated to hurt another; never say anything tainted with falsehood. If you do, in the end you will regret it.

Second, believers must turn from evil and do good. There’s more going on in those six words than meets the eye. Doing evil takes planning; most of the time we don’t accidentally do wrong. Therefore, if you want to live a worthwhile life, instead of planning ways to sin, plan ways to do good things.

Last, we must seek peace and pursue it. This doesn’t mean Christians are to be passively sitting around letting fascists steamroll over them. What it does mean is this: We will live disciplined lives; we won’t say things that tear people down; we don’t repay evil with evil; we don’t run around insulting people we don’t like. Instead, we will be peacemakers; we will find peaceful solutions to arguments or disagreements.

Peter uses the rest of Psalm 34 as a reason to live this way. First, God is well aware of everything going on in our lives. Everything. Because of that, He is attentive to our prayers and ready to help us. But second, God is steadfastly against all who do evil. He will deal with evildoers in His own way and it won’t be pleasant. That’s reason enough to abstain from retaliating in kind!

Suffering is no problem

Then Peter askes a rhetorical question:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (1 Peter 3:13 | NIV84)

The cynic in me cries out, “Anybody!” And I’d be right. Plenty of do-gooders have been harmed or killed over the centuries since Peter wrote verse 13. Look at all the missionaries who became martyrs! But it’s verse 14 that’s important:

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14 | NIV84)

It’s important but paradoxical. If you are suffering because of your faith, you should consider yourself “blessed?” Really? Peter is not suggesting you should be thrilled with the prospect of losing your job because of your faith or with being lied about because somebody wants to cause your problems on account of your faith. The idea here is “privilege.” Jesus suffered because of who He was and what He believed, so if the same thing is happening to you, you’re doing something right. Something Paul wrote to the Romans makes this idea of suffering a bit more palatable:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 | NIV84)

Then there’s this bit over in 2 Thessalonians 1 –

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. (2 Thessalonians 1:4 – 7a | NIV84)

The unpleasantness a Christian goes through because he is a Christian prepares him for what lies ahead. God, as any good parent would do, allows His children to pass through difficult times to teach them discipline; to toughen them up. Neither Peter nor Paul has in mind suffering because of misdeeds, but suffering for living right.

Keep in mind that Peter wrote to suffering Christians. Suffering for doing wrong is easy to wrap our minds around, but not so suffering for doing good! It’s a challenge to accept the very notion. It’s funny that this Biblical teaching on suffering has been in the Bible for 2000 years yet even the most seasoned saint seems surprised by it to the point that they try to avoid this kind of suffering!

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17 | NIV84)

It may well be that suffering for doing good is God’s will. Doing good, by the way, is rarely an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. When suffering touches our lives, God uses it for good:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, a who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 | NIV84)

That kind of insight is usually only seen in hindsight. That’s why it’s helpful to know the Bible. Joseph, in hindsight, realized the truthfulness of what Peter and Paul taught. Here was a young man who had risen to the heights of Egyptian politics and was used by God to rescue his entire family from drought and starvation. But all that was possible only because of what his nasty brothers did to him.

You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:20 | NIV84)

This is God’s amazing grace in action. When we choose to serve Christ and devote our lives to living for God with Christ as our example, the Lord promises to use everything for our benefit.

Peter and Jude, Part 1

Peter wrote two letters that we know of and Jude wrote one. In the world of New Testament epistles, Paul gets all the press but Peter and Jude had some very significant things to say to Christians. And these three letters are very similar, and because of that, they are frequently studied together.

We’ll begin our look at these letters by looking at what Peter had to say about “hope.” Robert Schuller, who pastored his Crystal Cathedral for an astounding 55 years, had this to say about “hope”:

Let your hope, not your hurts, shape your future.

That sounds good, but it only works when your “hope” is built on the right foundation. I prefer what Mote had to say about the topic:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

And then there’s what Peter said:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3 | NIV84)

Born again to hope

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1, 2 | NIV84)

Peter was an interesting man who had an interesting career. He was a fisherman who had been called by Jesus Christ to become a “fisher of men.” Doremus Hayes, theologian, once described Peter as being: “…a likeable man…a hasty man…a going man…a loyal man…a “rock” man…a growing man…the Apostle of Hope.” He was certainly all those things at various times in his life and career.

The recipients of this letter are described as “God’s elect” by Peter. The Biblical doctrine of “election” bothers some Christians and has been a source of conflict among Bible scholars for generations. The Bible teaches “election.” In fact, you can find three kinds of Biblical election, according to Benjamin Field:

• The election of people to perform certain kinds of service;
• The election of nations or groups of people to receive religious blessings;
• A personal election of people to be the children of God and the heirs of eternal glory.

The third form of “election” is the one Peter is referring to. But this “election” of some to salvation does not exclude others from this blessing. God’s election and predestination are tremendous provisions and blessings for all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not an arbitrary predetermination of those who can believe. All who confess Christ become the “elect,” living with the realization that God will enable them to live victoriously on earth and enter eternity to stand before the Lord as His chosen.

That’s the foundation of the hope Peter’s readers had, and it should be foundation of your hope, too. Peter was writing to Christians living in horrible conditions. Although Nero had yet to begin his persecution of Christians, animosity toward them was growing in intensity. If any people needed some encouragement and to be reminded of the hope they have in Christ, it was the people to whom this letter was written.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 | NIV84)

The “living hope” of the believer is based on his personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the living Savior. The hope of these believers, living in tumultuous, uncertain times, was in the One who triumphed over His circumstances; He rose from the dead. That’s not an insignificant declaration. We, as Christians, have a living hope because our hope is in a living Savior!

But that hope we share with Peter’s readers is also in the fact that we are part of God’s family, and are therefore heirs to the glorious inheritance of God! Everything He has is ours. This would have been a big deal to Peter’s readers, many of whom had lost or would lose everything as the heat of persecution got dialed up. The state may be able to take your home and property, but what you get from God can never be taken from you! You may lose your job and your family may abandon you, but what God has in store for you is permanent. Being faithful in this life guarantees your full inheritance. Paul wrote something very similar to the Ephesians:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b – 14 | NIV84)

The basis of our hope

That the basis of our hope shouldn’t be in our circumstances is a thought that Peter expanded upon in this group of verses:

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7 – 9 | NIV84)

The “these” are all the problems his readers are facing because of their faith. Peter provides an invaluable insight into how God works. The trials and tribulations that his readers were facing, and indeed the trials and tribulations we face, too, were not unknown to God, nor were they punishment from Him, nor were they arbitrary! They served a very distinct purpose: to strengthen their faith in Christ. That’s right; those things we try so hard to avoid; those unpleasant things we plan our lives around escaping, are the very things God uses to make us better Christians! James thought about this very issue and came to the exact same conclusion Peter did:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2 – 4 | NIV84)

As you read what Peter wrote, you realize the power of our salvation. We believe in a living Savior! Ours is not a dead philosopher, whose philosophies couldn’t preserve His own life! Our Savior is the One, the only One in fact, who rose from the dead. Through the power that raised Him from dead, He has reached out and forward in time and space to save us, as we place our faith in Him. From time to time, hard times may come into our lives, but our lives are being actively preserved by that same Resurrection power to the point where what is meant to harm us – what would do irreparable harm to the unbeliever – does us good, making us stronger and wiser and far more valuable to God.

Our salvation is so special and so spectacular, that angels are fascinated with God’s work in man.

Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12b | NIV)

That’s right. The salvation that we so often take for granted and abuse is so unique and so phenomenal that angels, those eternal spirit beings with amazing powers, are desperate to understand it. They can’t possibly because they can’t experience it. Only sinful human beings who have placed their faith in Christ and have had their sins forgiven can. Luke put it this way:

…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10 | NIV84)

Only man can know the salvation God provides through Jesus Christ. Johnson Oatman, a prolific hymn-writer who wrote some 3,000 hymns in his lifetime, captured the thought perfectly in his hymn, “Holy, Holy Is What the Angels Sing”:

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.

Now would be a good time to ask yourself the question: What have the angels learned about MY salvation by observing MY life?

Transformed by hope into a holy person

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13 – 16 | NIV84)

As the Bard wrote, “Ay, there’s the rub.” God did so much for us Christ, but we have a responsibility – an obligation – to live holy lives. Uncertainty, difficult times, trials, and tribulations must not cause believers to give up and go back to their old ways of living, from which they’ve been saved.

Peter’s first bit of advice, “prepare your minds,” tells us something very important. The key to living a victorious Christian life is having and maintaining the right mental attitude. It all starts between our ears; by not allowing our minds to dwell too long on our circumstances, good or bad. Success in the Christian life depends on our intellect working with our moral and spiritual faculties. Paul knew the connection between the mind and the quality of our lives ran deep:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 | NIV84)

Changing our habitual way of thinking is up to us; God won’t do it for us. We wish He would, though. It’s not an easy thing to do. But if we’ll honor God, we must. According to what Peter wrote, we ought to be living and thinking as if Christ could return at any moment. The incredible privilege and glorious future of “the elect” demands that we adopt the “pattern” revealed to us: God is holy and we must be holy.

That phrase, “be holy in all you do,” has been translated by J.B. Phillips as:

Be holy in every department of your lives.

What is in the heart will be manifested in how you live your life. True holiness is not revealed in a church service where you are surrounded by other believers, but in how you live daily. True holiness is related to all civic, personal, religious, private, and public aspects of life. It is demonstrated in all your relationships. Holiness, morality, and ethics are all intertwined and cannot be separated because true ethical conduct is patterned after God, and He is our pattern.

Peter quoted from the Old Testament book of Leviticus to proof text what he wrote about the imperative to be holy:

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44, 45 | NIV84)

The reason God wants us to be holy is because He Himself is holy. It is His supreme purpose for His people to be as He is: Holy. It is part of our election; our calling. We can’t be holy simply by doing things. It requires our minds being reigned in so that we begin to see life as God does. We become holy because our God is Holy and when we are in a relationship with Him, we become like Him.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 | NIV84)

Holiness is God’s choice for the moral condition of His people. In his commentary on 1 Peter, Roy Nicholson makes a valuable observation:

Because of God’s nature it is right that man should resemble Him. He is the Creator. Because of man’s nature it is possible for him to resemble God. The possibility of being holy determines our duty to be holy.

 

 

BE’s of the Bible, Part 1

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In Scripture, the little word “be” when it is spoken by the Lord is always part of something He wants from us; it always precedes a command or is part of an admonition. When the Lord uses “be” it’s always an imperative – the one to whom He is speaking is left with a choice: either do what the Lord is saying and be blessed, or don’t and be prepared for trouble. That’s one good thing about the Lord that a lot of people who aren’t part of the Christian faith don’t get. Christians aren’t robots; we aren’t being forced to serve God; we aren’t coerced into living righteous lives. The very God who created us and saved us also gave us a free will and He expects us to use it, along with our reasoning minds and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. So God always gives us a choice: be what He wants us to be or not. It’s always a choice.

Let’s take a look a few examples of the choices God wants us to make as we examine the first “Be” of the Bible.

Be Holy, 1 Peter 1:15, 16

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)

That’s pretty simple. Believers are expected by God to be holy people. And this isn’t a new idea, by the way, so to back up this New Testament admonition, Peter quotes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus. The notion of God wanting His people to be holy is as old as God Himself; it’s not a new idea.

Peter wrote his first letter to both Jewish and Christian believers – believers who were scattered all over.

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia… (1 Peter 1:1 NIV)

You can imagine that these believers, some of them living in hostile areas, needed to be encouraged to keep the faith; to be patient, to remain hopeful, and to continue living lives of holiness in the pagan cultures in which they were living. Merrill C. Tenney put Peter’s aim in writing this letter like this:

Peter teaches his readers how to live out their redemption in a hostile world.

That’s right. Just because it may not be popular to be a Christian or just because it may be inconvenient to live a righteous life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In the darkness of a pluralistic society or secular world, Christians are supposed to shine all the brighter. And they do this outside of the church; they shine for Jesus at work, at the market, at school, in town, everywhere.

Chosen

For people who were having a hard time living out the Christian faith, knowing that they were chosen by God was important. Some of these people had been forsaken by their families and friends, but never by God. How could the God who elected and then chose them, simply walk away from them?

To God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood… (1 Peter 1:1, 2 NIV)

These believers, as all believers have been, were “chosen” by God. In fact, as Peter explains it, each member of the Trinity is involved in the salvation of a person. In the first place, election is “according to the foreknowledge of God the father.” Each believer’s election began in the mind of the Father as part of His great plan of redemption. Secondly, the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is involved in his sanctification, which carries with it the idea of being “set apart” or being “made holy.” It is a work of the Spirit to conform the believer into the image of Jesus through spiritual growth. And lastly, Jesus Christ is the member of the Trinity that shed His very blood and gave His life as a sacrifice so that man could enter into a relationship with God.

So important and significant were these believers that each one of them received the personal attention of each member of the Godhead. That’s a powerful thought, and it’s a motivating factor for the things Peter will be dealing with later on in this letter.

Deferred gratification

And so believers are chosen or elected by God. That’s a comforting thought. But sometimes the real world hits us like ton of bricks. It’s relatively easy to live a holy life in the safety of our church. It’s easy to be a Christian when you’re among Christians. But eventually you have to go to work. At some point you will encounter resistance to your faith; you will be questioned; you will be forced to take a stand and defend what you believe; you will have to explain why you abstain from certain activities that all your friends are participating in. At those times, it’s good to remember some of the things Peter wrote:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 NIV)

We need to pause for a second to consider that phrase “great mercy,” because it’s not just a throw-away phrase. His “great mercy” actually reveals something about God’s character: He is all beneficent, and because He is, He is the source of our hope as believers. And it was the resurrection of Jesus that proved God’s acceptance of His sacrifice on our behalf. Because the Father raised the Son, we have the abiding hope in a future “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” That may not sound like a big deal to you, with the imagined security of a job, a warm home, and healthy retirement account, but to these struggling, first century believers who had nothing and were slightly better off than nomads, it meant everything!

All believers are heirs of God and an inheritance awaits them. We’re all familiar with what an inheritance is, but the one God has reserved for us is a permanent one – it is perfect every way; we can never use it up or break it; it will never deteriorate or disappear. This inheritance from God is being kept absolutely secure for believers, who are being kept for it. The word translated “kept” really means “guarded,” which means that our inheritance is being watched over and protected for us by God!

In a world where everything is so temporary, this is something to look forward to. It puts into perspective the riches of this world.

As if the idea of our eternal inheritance being guarded by God isn’t enough, believers are likewise “shielded by God’s power.” But this shielding by God is activated by having faith in His power. He has the ability to keep or shield every believer who commits his life to His care. And that’s the rub. Not all believers are that committed to God. Are you? Or are you like a lot of believers who have confessed Christ but have distant relationship with Him? You may be close enough to Christ to get into heaven (for now), but not close enough to receive the kind of “shielding” God has for you. Living like that is, to say the least, very precarious. There is eternal security for the believer – but it’s not unconditional. It takes faith, which itself involves mental assent and personal commitment.

There’s a purpose

With verse six, Peter gives his readers the “why” everybody wants to know.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6 NIV)

All the things Peter wrote about up to this point were cause for his readers to “rejoice,” but the reality of the kind of lives these people were living comes out: they were suffering “grief in all kinds of trials.” That’s a big pill for any believer to swallow. Sure, the future looks great for believers, but what about the here-and-now? Unfortunately there are a lot of believers who think there is something wrong with their faith if they are suffering “grief in all kinds of trials.” That’s just not necessarily true, according to Peter. When the bad times comes, there is a reason and purpose behind them –

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7 NIV)

Yes indeed, joy and grief may be present in the believer and that’s completely understandable and normal. The key is understanding why the grief is coming. The problem of suffering is something that has always bothered Christians, yet Jesus Himself told us not to be dismayed – that in this world Christians would have trouble. In Hebrews we are told that God tests His people by trials. James said that testings come from God. It’s not a popular thing to say, but the Bible is very clear on this: the path to glory always leads through opposition. But this opposition – trials and suffering – serves to purify the soul and display the soundness of the believer’s faith in and love for Jesus Christ.

The thing is, our trials are only temporary. Like the riches of this world, the trials of this world will pass. Paul understood this –

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 18 NIV)

Our salvation demands holiness

Our eternal inheritance is cause for us to rejoice, and the rough times we experience here on earth are serving a purpose that, in the end, will greatly benefit us. Now we learn how precious our salvation both is and will be. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is so unusual; so intricate, we are told by this – Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12b NIV)

Man’s salvation boggles the angels! They didn’t need saving, so they can’t possibly understand the magnitude of God’s incredible plan. Too bad we don’t appreciate it that much. And that brings us to the first “Be” is this series. In light of everything that believers have received from God, God expects something in return –

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do… 1 Peter 1:15 NIV)

God calls and man responds. God gives man the pattern to live by and it is man’s responsibility to adopt it. There’s no mystery to holiness for God has modelled it.

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6 NIV)

A lot of people misunderstand what holiness is all about. Even among Christians, there is wonky idea that a holy person is a super pious person. A holy person to some is the weirdo who never leaves his house, doesn’t have a TV or radio, always wears a shirt and tie and when you do chance to see him through the fence, he’s always reading C.S. Lewis and the Bible.  But that’s not it all.

God wants all of His people to enjoy life – to get the most out of living. It is possible to experience life to the fullest without sinning. Holiness is to the spiritual life what health is to the physical life. Holiness is not a superficial thing; it is not accomplished through deprivation or rituals. Our holiness is not an attribute like God’s holiness is. He’s perfect but we never will be. But God wants us to be spiritually fit. Holiness means resembling Him. Because of man’s nature, this is wholly possible! The possibility of being holy makes it our duty to become holy. A holy Christian is a healthy Christian and that’s what God wants of us. To live like Jesus did is what will please God. And that should be our goal.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NIV)

 


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