Posts Tagged 'suffering'

Panic Podcast – The Cost of Discipleship, Conclusion

I’m wrapping a study about the cost of discipleship. We thank the Lord for His free and abundant grace, but following Him means making Him the Lord of our lives. There can be great costs associated with being a true disciple of Christ, which should be goal of every Christian. Have a listen.

 

Panic Podcast: The Everything Bible Study, Part 13

Happy Monday!  Today on the podcast, we begin a look at the Wisdom Literature books of the Bible, specifically, the Book of Job.  Who wrote it?  When was it written?  What is the big lesson?  We’ll look at all those things and more, so open up those Bible to Job!

 

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.

Is God Your Father?

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“Is God really your Father?” That looks like an trick question, but it isn’t. However, it is a loaded question that isn’t all that easy to answer. Roman Catholics and a great many Protestants believe that God is the Father of all people. There seems to be some Biblical support for this idea:

‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’ (Acts 17:28 NIrV)

In a sense, God is the Father of people because He created all of us. Malachi 2:10 provides us with that bit of truth –

People of Judah, all of us have one Father. One God created us. (NIrV)

Over in the New Testament, the apostle Paul taught something very similar –

In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’

“Yes, we are God’s children. So we shouldn’t think that God is made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t a statue planned and made by clever people.” (Acts 17:28, 29 NIrV)

God is the creator of all people. That essential Biblical truth was taught to the Jews in the Old Testament and to the Gentiles in the New. But that isn’t the end of it. Charles Spurgeon wrote this of the Fatherhood of God –

Believe the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God to His people. Abhor the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood of God, for it is a lie and a deep deception.

He’s right about that, of course. The very sad fact is that most people have become “children of the wicked one” because they have chosen to live in sin.

The field is the world. The good seed stands for the people who belong to the kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. (Matthew 13:38 NIrV)

You can’t “belong to the evil one” if you are a child of God. The great Biblical truth of the fatherhood of God is that He is indeed the Father of those who belong to Him. We are made children of God in the relational sense by faith.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born again because of what God has done. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children as well. (1 John 5:1 NIrV)

The teaching of “the universal Fatherhood of God” is an outright contradiction of Christ’s own teaching. Only those who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are actively living for Him have a right to call God their Father. That very nice person who lives down the street, who is kind and courteous to all, cannot call God his Father if he is not born again. Our Lord put it this way –

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me. I came from God, and now I am here. I have not come on my own. He sent me.” (John 8:42 NIrV)

Love with corresponding devotion to Jesus Christ is the evidence that a person is under the Fatherhood of God. Knowing about God or even claiming to love God does not make Him your Father. That’s the essence of Jesus’ teaching in John 8. He declared this in John 8:12 –

Jesus spoke to the people again. He said, “I am the light of the world. Those who follow me will never walk in darkness. They will have the light that leads to life.” (NIrV)

The relationship between Jesus and the Father is such that they are really inseparable. That’s why Jesus could say something like this –

If you knew me, you would know my Father also. (John 8:19 NIrV)

That assertion is probably the most striking one Jesus ever made. He was speaking to “nice people,” highly educated, respected, very religious people. They were sure that they knew God; they thought they understood His ways. They thought they were His children. However, their rejection of Jesus Christ showed that they really didn’t know God at all. The only things they knew for sure were their own ideas about God.

If these religious people really loved God as they claimed to, they would have loved God’s Son. Merrill C. Tenney’s remarks on this issue are worthwhile noting –

Love for God is a family affair; it involves loving all whom the Father has sent. This love should especially be manifested toward the Father’s most beloved representative, his Son.

Just so. So is God really your Father? Are you in love with Jesus? How do you know for sure? Love for Christ shows itself in the following ways:

Love for Christ is manifested by trusting Him

You can’t say that you love God without having faith in His Son. Specifically, you must trust in what the Son did for you on the Cross. You must know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He bore your sins to the Cross, was punished and died in your stead, taking away all your guilt. You have to believe He did all that and you have to claim your position in Christ as a genuine child of God. All that takes faith. All that takes an attitude of trust toward Jesus.

When a man works, his pay is not considered a gift. It is owed to him. But things are different with God. He makes evil people right with himself. If people trust in him, their faith is accepted even though they do not work. Their faith makes them right with God. (Romans 4:4, 5 NIrV)

Love for Christ is manifested by listening to His Word.

But because I tell the truth, you don’t believe me! (John 8:45 NIrV)

If you love Jesus, and thereby you love God, you will pay attention to the Word of God. James Stephenson wrote –

Where there is love there will be a joyful reception of His words into the heart.

Does that describe you? Is your Bible covered with dust? Or is it well-read? Do you struggle to stay awake during the sermon? Do you think Bible study is a waste of time? If God is really your Father, you’ll love His Word.

We live in a world that is very hostile to the Word of God. What does that say about the state of our nation? The vast majority of people today do not know or do not acknowledge the truth of God’s Word. People today are too busy trying to live in a “politically correct” manner instead of living in the light of the objective truths contained in the Bible. Pilate was like that. He famously uttered those words, “What is truth?” Here was a man who was so bogged down in the politics of his day he could no longer recognize the truth even as it was standing there in front of him.

It’s sad but true, but most people today live in a world of lies and delusion, of distortions and falseness. For those religious people listening to Jesus and for far too many of your neighbors, truth is a foreign language they do not understand.

Love for Christ is manifested by a desire for fellowship.

When you love someone, you want to be with them. When you love someone, you can’t wait to see them. Are you that way with Jesus? Is prayer a burden to you? When was the last time – not counting grace – you spent time in prayer?

But there is more to fellowshipping with Christ than praying. The truth is, fellowshipping with other believers is also fellowshipping with Christ. A true child of God prefers the company of other true children of God. Does that describe you? Do look forward to fellowshipping with other Christians? What kind of people do you like to spend your time with the most? How you answer those questions speaks volumes about what you think of Jesus.

In 1545, William Turner wrote this famous verse –

Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.

We say it like this today –

Birds of feather flock together.

People in love with Jesus love to spend time with Him and with others like Him.

Love for Christ is manifested by talking about Him

If you love Jesus, and if God is really your father, then you’ll talk about Him. It’s human nature to enjoy talking about things we’re interested in; things we spend the most time thinking about. What do you spend time talking about? Your favorite sports team? The latest blockbuster in the theater? Your children? There’s nothing wrong with any of that “small talk,” by the way. But there’s this –

So be very careful how you live. Do not live like people who aren’t wise. Live like people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity. The days are evil. So don’t be foolish. Instead, understand what the Lord wants.

Don’t fill yourself up with wine. Getting drunk will lead to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Speak to each other with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything. Give thanks to him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15 – 20 NIrV)

That’s how you should be living. It’s not that Paul wants you to run around singing at each other necessarily, but God the Father and Jesus the Son shouldn’t be too far from your thoughts. It’s good to talk about spiritual things. It builds up the faith and encourages the heart.

Love for Christ is manifested by willingly suffering for Him

If God doesn’t punish you when you need it, as other fathers punish their sons, then it means that you aren’t really God’s son at all—that you don’t really belong in his family. (Hebrews 12:8 TLB)

As Leon Morris observed,

It is the universal experience of children that life means discipline.

So much so that if there is somebody who has never been disciplined, then, that person is “illegitimate.” Verse 7 actually clarifies verse 8 –

Let God train you, for he is doing what any loving father does for his children. Whoever heard of a son who was never corrected? (Hebrews 12:7 TLB)

In the Greek, “train you” is in the emphatic position, meaning that’s what you’re supposed to remember from this verse. Suffering should never be looked upon as misery, or by chance, or bad luck for the Christian. Difficult times show that God is teaching you and disciplining you. It sounds so trite, but God uses difficult times to teach His children something.

If God is really your Father, you will be tried and tested because you are His heir – a legitimate child of God.

Love for Christ is manifested by a desire to be like Him

Christ suffered for you. He left you an example. He expects you to follow in his steps. You too were chosen to suffer. (1 Peter 2:21 NIrV)

Without regard to the bit about being “chosen to suffer,” Christ is our example and if God is your Father, you’ll want to live your life the way Jesus did. In living like Jesus, you’ll be living like God. That’s how you should want to live because that’s how God wants you to live –

God planned that those he had chosen would become like his Son. (Romans 8:29 NIrV)

Is God really your Father? He’s not everybody’s Father. The Fatherhood of God is exclusive to those who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Don’t believe otherwise.

 


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