I've added a new resource to my resource tab called Don't Call Me Teacher. Jesus said not to call anyone Father, Rabbi, Teacher, or Leader. Yet we regularly use titles such as these within the church. We have many excuses for why but, is it OK to call someone Father or Pastor or did Jesus really mean what He said? Here are my thoughts on this question and how it relates to the Clergy/Laity system within the church.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." (2 Peter 2:1-3)Truth has always been under assault by those who desire to destroy it. We can read the recorded history of God's interaction with mankind and see how, over and over, false prophets and false teachers rose up to pervert the truth. Therefore we should not be surprised when we see false prophets and false teachers arising today. Sometimes we comfort ourselves by saying, "those things only happened back then" but Peter is warning us to be watchful knowing that, if it happened back then, it can and will happen today. There are several things worth noting in Peter's warning.
First, he warns us that false prophets and false teachers will arise from our own midst; from within the church itself. There will be those who grew up upon the truth but later stray away, wandering into error and unbelief. One of the Greek words that is translated as "deceived" is the same root word from which we get our word for "planets" and it means to wander. All the stars move in predictable patters except for the planets. To the early astronomers these celestial luminaries wandered from their true path, the true path the other stars took. They were wanders, erratic, and in error. Some people start in truth but end up wandering into error. We must be on the lookout for those who wish to lead us astray, away from the path of truth.
Secondly, their motives will not be immediately apparent for they will bring in their false teaching secretly or privately by stealth. What makes it even harder to discern their motives is that often the motive is not the outright destruction of the truth as it is the establishment of heresy. Heresy is a Greek word that simply means dissension or a sect. Its motives is to capture people through its teachings and to lead them away to be separate from the rest of the truth. The goal of heresy is to create a sect of followers that stand separate from and in opposition to the true body of believers. Irenaeus warns against all attempts to divide and split the Body of Christ, saying, "For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism." (Irenaeus, Against Heresy, Book 5, 33:7)
Thirdly, we must be wary about those who would seek to redefine for us who Jesus is; diminishing His deity or altering His relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Some speak of Jesus, but they have so reduced Him to the point where He is no longer Lord and Master. They like to talk about Him, but no longer feel the need to submit and obey Him. They are as those whom Jesus rebuked saying, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) Some, moreover, while still asserting the lordship of Jesus, set themselves up as the head, demanding loyalty, fielty, and obedience from their followers. They speak of Jesus as Lord yet hold themselves as lord over their flock. They point to Jesus but expect people to follow them. The have denied Jesus as both their lord and the lord over the flock.
Fourthly, for some, their heresy is all about self indulgence. Their heresy is meant to make them feel good about themselves, to defend the sinful behavior, and to grant them permission to live in sensuality and licentiousness. Such heresy actually praises the passions that rage against our souls and places our own base desires above the desires of God. Jesus came that we might, "escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 1:4) and His grace comes to teach us to "deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:12) Jesus came to free us from our old sinful nature, from our sins and lusts, that we might live in newness of life, while such heresy seeks to enslave us once again to the baser nature of our soul. Such heresy may promise life, but it delivers bondage.
Finally, greed can breed heresy. It can be greed for money or for such things as power, position, recognition, and respect. What ever the object of greed, if we let it infect our teaching it can lead to heresy. Paul told us that, "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10) Much harm has been done to the body of Christ by those who have used their gifts of teaching and prophesy for their own selfish interests. The Greek word used here for "exploit" means a traveling peddler, a merchandiser, and one who buys and sells things. They are like those whom Jesus drove out of the temple saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a robber's den." (Mark 11:17) or like those whom Paul says, "suppose that godliness is a means of gain." and are "men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth" (1 Timothy 6:5) Such men stand as spiritual ministers but are really businessmen, buying and selling what ever will make them a profit.
What ever the means, mode, or nature of the heresy, Peter is quite clear: its destruction awaits. While we should be on the alert for heresy, we need not fear it, for it cannot and will not stand. Heresy has come and gone over the centuries and, if Jesus tarries, will so come and go for the centuries to come, but the truth will remain!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
"For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" — and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain." (2 Peter 1:16-18)In those days, even as today, there were those who were carefully designing their religious and philosophical systems based on their own powers of understanding and imagination. The Greek word from "cleverly devised" does not carry any negative connotation for intents of the one devising the plan. It is the Greek word from which we get our word for Sophistry and the girls name Sophia and means wisdom. There were those who claimed great wisdom and knowledge of the universe and of God and developed elaborate intellectual models and their corresponding forms of religion worship, all conceived by their own imagination. Often those behind the differing systems would compete with each other, trying to show through their elaborate "systems" that they had the superior knowledge and wisdom and that they deserved to be followed over their peers. However, what made Christianity different was that it was not built upon the imagination of men but was delivered to men through direct revelation by God. Peter did not think these things up, he lived them. He did not devise sophistic teachings, he was taught directly by Jesus. Peter did not just suppose that Jesus was the Son of God, he was there on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured and he heard the voice of God declaring Jesus to be His Son. Peter did not just hope for a resurrection, he actually saw Jesus die and personally handled His resurrected body. Christianity is not based upon man's wisdom but upon God's divine revelation.
"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19)This passage from Peter is a bit hard to translate and there are many ideas of exactly what he meant. Personally, I think the English Standard Version (ESV) gives the best translation, "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word." Not only do we have the personal testimonies of the apostles but they are just successors in a long history of divine revelation. God has not been silent. All through history God has been revealing Himself to mankind. God was there in the beginning of His creation, He continued to speak throughout history through His prophets, then He sent His own Son as His living Word, and now, as Peter recounts, was continuing that revelation through His apostles. This is what the writer of Hebrews wrote when he said, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2) The roots of Christianity are ancient, they go all the way back through time. Christianity is not some new idea thought up by some of the wizards of smart, it is the natural progression of a divine revelation that started thousands of years ago.
"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21)Peter writes of these prophetic scriptures as "a lamp shining in a dark place" and urges us to study and give heed to them. Why? Because they are not just the words of men but the words of God. When we read the scriptures, which in Peter's day were the old Hebrew writings of the Old Testament, we are not just reading the thoughts, ideas, and imaginations of men, we are reading the self-revelation of God. God wants us to know Him, He wants to reveal Himself to us, and He has left behind a written history of His revelation to Mankind for anyone who cares to enlighten themselves. They are not just good stories but divine realities and they are written on our behalf and for our benefit. Do not neglect them for they are God's message to you!
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
I've added a new resource to the resource tab on my blog. It is called: How to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit.
I think that we far too often make the Baptism in the Holy Spirit much more complicated than it needs to be. In this short teaching we will look at Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. I think you will find what Jesus has to say about being Baptized in the Holy Spirit refreshingly simple.
Give it a read and let me know what you think. You can find this article on my blog's resource tab.
I think that we far too often make the Baptism in the Holy Spirit much more complicated than it needs to be. In this short teaching we will look at Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. I think you will find what Jesus has to say about being Baptized in the Holy Spirit refreshingly simple.
Give it a read and let me know what you think. You can find this article on my blog's resource tab.
Monday, August 26, 2013
"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder," (2 Peter 1:12-13)As we go through our daily lives its easy to loose sight of the bigger picture. We become so consumed with the here and now that we loos sight of eternity, we focus on the temporal and forget the eternal. Sometimes we need to be reminded of where we have come from and where we are going. We need to be reminded of what is really important so we do not become consumed by minutia. Peter was writing of things that his readers already new, yet he wanted to make sure they remembered; remembered that they had been forgiven of their sins and were on a grand journey into the likeness of Christ.
We all need to be reminded from time to time of what life is really all about. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel" (2 Timothy 2:8) It seems odd that Timothy had to be reminded to remember Jesus, but we can all testify of times where in the hurriedness and busyness of life we have forgotten Jesus and His presence in our lives. Its good to be reminded to remembered often. Even our celebration of Communion is, in part, an act of remembrance. Jesus said, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:19) This need to be reminded is also why we need each other. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Heb 10:24-25) We need each other to help us to remember and to provoke and sir us on in our walk with Jesus.
"knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." (2 Peter 1:14-15)Peter knew that his life was to end in martyrdom. After His resurrection, Jesus told Peter, " 'Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.' Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, 'Follow Me!' " (John 21:18-19) Each day he lived, Peter knew it was one more day closer to his departure from this earth. This knowledge motivated him in his diligence to teach and remind the believers of their life in God. Many people today speak of legacy; a desire to leave behind something to the next generation that follows. However, for many, this desire is not so much about the gift to be left behind as it is to be remembered for the gift. Peter was not so concerned with being remembered as he was for the people to remember Jesus. His life's work was to so ingrain in them the truth that, even after he was gone, they would still remember what he said; not because he said it but because it was the truth and the truth changed their lives.
What legacy are we leaving behind? Is it a legacy the seeks to perpetuate our own remembrance or one that seeks for something greater in those who follow after us? Let us apply all diligence so that, after we depart for heaven, the lessons Jesus taught us would remain in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I have added a Resources tab to the top of my blog where I am beginning to gather together some of the teachings I have done on my blog and re-posting them as PDF files to make them easier to read and share. The first teaching I have added is called "Apostles, Elders, and Brethren" where I take a look at the governmental structure of the church and the key roles and functions within the church. Check it out an let me know what you think. Also, check back often as I will be adding more teachings over time. You can find this article on my blog's resource tab.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
"For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:8)Peter is back talking about the knowledge of God that is the knowing of God kind of knowledge. He also gives us this promise, that if we apply diligence to our faith and build, layer upon layer, upon our faith the virtues of life he previously mentioned, then we will be neither barren or unfruitful in our walk with Christ. The Christian walk is meant to be a walk forward; a walk of progress towards the image and likeness of God. Paul says of us, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
This is the journey we are on, to become progressively more and more like Jesus, both in action (outwardly) and thought (inwardly). This growth occurs as we add those qualities of life that Peter mentioned and that, through faith and diligence, those things increase in our lives. For those who practice such a lifestyle find a life that is full and productive. The Greek word used here for "barren" means to be inactive, idle, or slow and the word for "unproductive" means to be without fruit. None of us wants this for our lives, but it takes diligence and faith; it takes an intentional walk forward into obedience to the things God has for us.
"For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins." (2 Peter 1:9)The picture Peter is drawing is of one who is trying to see life through a window where all things are occluded by the filth of the window, or as one who has willing shut their eyes lest they should see reality as it really is. There are many reasons for this blindness, some choose it willingly others submit to it by remaining in their prisons where they can no longer see the sky. Some are just too focused on themselves to actually look out and see the Kingdom to which they have become members. What ever the reason, they no longer look forward and their salvation from sin no longer holds any importance to them. If we find ourselves one of these people then we need to wake up and remember that our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins was meant to be the start of a grand adventure with Christ, not just a moment of life that we experience and then move on from as if nothing has changed. We need to once again grasp the importance of that event and begin to live in its reality, journeying forward to God and to His likeness.
"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble" (2 Peter 1:10)What a promise! To live a life no more to stumble! Everyone is looking for something simple they can do to improve their lives and here it is: practice these things and you will never stumble again. Of course, its not as easy as that, it takes effort, work, discipline, and faith, but it is possible by the grace and mercy of God and, along the way, if we do stumble, there is always the mercy of God to forgive us and restore us to the path of life. When Peter says to "make certain" our calling and election, he uses a Greek word that means to make "stable, steadfast, and sure." It is not as if our election and calling are ever in question or are uncertain, but it is in regards to the steadiness and firmness of our lives: living some days as if we are called and others as if we are not. Some days walking in accordance with our calling and election and other days stumbling badly as if our calling and election were failing us. The goal of all discipline is to produce a walk that is stable, sure, and firm; a walk that is certain. We should never doubt our calling and election by God and our walk should express the same; certain in our confidence and certain in our walk.
"for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." (2 Peter 1:11)It's hard to think that there will be differing rewards in heaven. We like to think that we are just as "good" as everyone else and that, if any deficiencies are found in our life, that God will understand and overlook our deficiencies since, after all, we are made of flesh. It is true that, all those who place themselves into the Father's hand are secure. For Jesus said, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:29) However, not all will arrive at heaven the same, some with rewards awaiting, and others arriving having suffered loss. "Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) The choice is ours. Either to take our salvation for granted and to be content with escaping hell, or to apply diligence to receive heavenly rewards when we finally arrive at our homes in heaven. So how will you live your life today? In slothful squandering of the opportunities that God has given you or by living in light of the precious gift you have received in the forgiveness of sins and in a determination to live forward to the honor and glory of God? Which will you choose today?
Thursday, August 22, 2013
"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:5-7)The Christian walk is a life of growing up. Paul spoke of having, "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." (Colossians 3:10) Which begs the question, "why does the new man have to be renewed?" The "new man" can also be translated "infant man" and to "renew" to "cause to grow up." We are born as spiritual infants that are growing up to become full-grown men and women of God. However, this growth does not happen automatically, but takes diligence, effort, and time. Many people either never start on the journey of growth or give up too soon; like spiritual children of Never Land who never grow up. Peter is encouraging us to not be slothful in our Christian growth but to be diligent and apply all spiritual discipline and training, along with the power and promises of God, to become mature in our faith and our walk with God.
Our new life in Christ begins with faith. Speaking of faith, Paul says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2) It is by faith that we are justified and are introduced to the grace of God that is able to save us and to help us to grow up. Faith is the starting point, but not the ending point. Peter encourages to add to our faith, like building layer upon layer, "until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ." (Ephesians 4:13 Darby)
Virtue: The Greek word for "moral excellence" can also be translated "virtue" and means anything of excellence that brings us into high esteem by those around us. We can think of this as outward faith. This is what Paul is referring to when he wrote, "He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need." (Ephesians 4:28) Virtue is the outward expression of the faith we have inside. This is what Jesus was speaking of when He said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
Knowledge: The Greek word used here for "knowledge" is different from the word Peter uses for the "knowledge of God" and it simply means knowledge or science. Having come to know God, we still need to grow in our knowledge of God. Paul, writing to the Hebrews, said, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Hebrews 5:12) These, while coming to know Christ, had failed to grow in their knowledge of Christ and needed to be taught again the beginnings of their faith. We should never stop learning, especially from the Word of God.
Temperance: The Greek word for "self-control" can also be translated as "temperance". The early church considered luxury one of the great sins of their day and taught their people to live moderately, simply, and with temperance. Clement of Alexandria said that uninterrupted pleasures was one of the greatest dangers to the soul. Paul taught us that now is the time that, "those who buy, [should live] as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:30-31) The treasures of this world can add nothing to our life for we are spiritual people, born of heaven, and destined for the same. We must learn to curb our appetite for the things of this world and to grow in hunger for the things of heaven.
Brotherly love: Christianity would be a whole lot easier if it wasn't for other Christians. However, our love for our brethren is often a barometer of how much we love God. John wrote, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." (1 John 4:20-21) We cannot separate the love of God from the love of the people of God. Having received the love of God we need to share that love one for another. If the God who is love lives in us, how can we but not love others? Those who remain isolated in their faith are stunted in their growth. We need each other, we need to love others and be loved by others. Brotherly love is the beginning of community and the beginning of the next virtue: charity.
Charity: The Greeks had several words for love, with the greatest love being "agape" which the King James Version of the Bible translates as charity. This is the kind of love that Paul says, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10) Our Christian walk begins with faith and ends with love. In fact, this is the true definition of righteousness. In Ephesians 6:14, Paul refers to the "breastplate of righteousness" and in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the "breastplate of faith and love" thus linking righteousness with faith and love. True righteousness can be defined as, "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6) The goal of all the other virtues listed by Peter is love. Paul says, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) Let us be found diligent in our faith to add all things necessary that we might arrive at true love for God and for mankind.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
"seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." (2 Peter 1:3)Peter's writing style can be a bit difficult to follow at times, but I'll give it my best "college try." Everything we have of any value begins with the knowledge of God. In Peter's day, many people claimed knowledge; scientists, philosophers, and some religious leaders, but for many, it was only knowledge of "stuff". Some of the heresies that sprung up in Peter's day also claimed to be birthed out of knowledge, a knowledge of spiritual things and spiritual hierarchies. Some even claiming knowledge and revelation that was greater than what Christ or even His Father knew, but it was only a knowledge of (supposed) facts. However, such knowledge benefits us little, in fact Paul said, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." (1 Cor 8:1 NKJV) It's not enough to know about God, we must know God, and it is this knowing that releases God's power in our lives. It is through this power that we gain access to all heavenly and divine power to make provision for everything we need for living a godly life. We can try to be good on our own, but its only when we come to know God that we gain access to the power to be good, the power to live right.
"For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 1:4)
For by what? By His divine powers released through the knowledge of Him. His promises are backed by His power and made available to use through the knowledge of Him. God's promises are not only great, they are also precious. The Greek word for "precious" can also be translated "costly." God's precious promises can only be purchased by something of equal or greater preciousness, such as, "with the precious blood of Christ:" (1 Peter 1:19 NIV) The goal of the promises is to make us partakers, or companions with Christ, in the divine nature. However, its not the promises alone that produces the divine nature within is, but obtaining those promises. Its not enough to merely believe the promises but we must also inherit those promises. This requires faith, and a bit more. "so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12)
Our journey towards life, godliness, and possessing the divine nature all begins when we are born again, when we die to this world and come alive to the Kingdom of God, when we escape the kingdom of this age and arrive in the Kingdom of God's Son, "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son."(Colossians 1:13) Peter refers to the corruption that is in the world due to lust. The Greek word for "corruption" represents a body decaying in the ground. This world, and the world system, is fading away, it is already dead and decaying. "for the form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:31) We were once part of this corruption; already "dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh." ("Colossians 2:13) and our human nature decaying even as we lived. However, when we came to Christ, our old nature died and our new nature came to life, a nature divine in promise. This is our hope which we seek to obtain through the great and precious promises of God. To live a life that is growing and maturing towards life, not one that is decaying into death. The old life we have escaped, the new life we are reaching forward to obtain in all its fullness.
Monday, August 19, 2013
"Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ," (2 Peter 1:1)Many of the Apostles, in sending their greetings in the opening of their letters, refer to themselves as "bond-servants" of God. I have heard some bristle at this term, claiming to be more and a servant and greater than a slave, and rightly so, for Jesus told us, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) and Paul reminds us that, "you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:7) However, even armed with this information, the apostles and many of the disciples still saw themselves as servants of God.
To understand this, we must hearken back to a time when Jews owned Hebrew slaves. Jews who found themselves in profound poverty and unable to provide for themselves or their family, would sell themselves as slaves to their fellow Jews. They would serve their Jewish masters for six years and then, on the seventh year, they were to be let go free. However, if their love for their benefactor was greater than their love for freedom, they could choose to stay with their master. "But if the slave plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,' then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently." (Exodus 21:5-6) These early believers understood this and their love for God compelled them to bind themselves permanently to God as his bond-servants; to accept the same piercing that also pierced Jesus, who was Himself "door of the sheep." (John 10:7) Some people are simply happy to follow Jesus but others, out of their deep and abounding love for God, also desire to be His servant.
"To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1)
The Greek term translated here as "same kind" can also mean "of like preciousness" or "of equal value or honor." Peter was not writing to those who merely knew the truth, but to those who loved the truth. He was writing to those for whom the truth head the same value and place of honor in their hearts as it did for Peter. Those who know the truth often fail to understand the truth because they have no love of the truth within themselves. Paul warns us of the coming Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the destruction that will come upon many, "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Our challenge, as we read the rest of Peter's letter, is to ask ourselves, "is our faith of the same preciousness as it to Peter?" and if not, why?
Peter also reminds us that, this faith we have received, we received not by our own righteousness or strength, but it was a free gift given to us through the righteousness of Christ. Our faith becomes all the more precious when we realize that we did not earn it but rather that it was given to us as a free gift, a gift we didn't deserve, a gift we couldn't purchase on our own, a gift freely given to us by a loving God. Jesus paid a tremendous price that we might posses such a precious faith, and this price He freely paid because of His great love for us.
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2)
It is the knowledge of God through which grace and peace are multiplied in our lives. However, such knowledge is not the knowledge of the things of God, or the knowing of certain facts about God, it is a knowledge that actually knows God. I have knowledge of our president and I know many things about him, but I do not know him. The same can be said of God. Many people have a knowledge of God and know many thing about God, but few actually know God. Jesus chided the Pharisees for their much studying and learning that never lead them to a true knowledge of God. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39-40) Jesus came to reveal the Father, so why should we be content with mere information and facts about God when we have been invited into a relationship with God that we might truly know Him. It is only in such a relationship that we will come to know Him and find the peace and grace that flows from His heart into our lives.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
"Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ." (1 Peter 5:12-14)For some, grace has become a kind of pass, and excuse for sin, a reason for them to stay the way they are, and a demand for others to accept them just the way they are since, we are "not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:14) However, Peter wrote to us proclaiming what is the true grace of God. So what is it? What is the true grace of God? Well, let's see what he wrote about: being committed to doing what's right even when it meant suffering, living a life worthy of the love of God, living in love one to another, loving our spouses, honoring and obeying our parents, showing hospitality to strangers, not returning evil for good but trusting ourselves to God, serving God willingly, and above all, loving one another. Grace is not measured by our liberty or licentiousness, but by the character of our life and our love for one to another. Grace is not an excuse, grace is not the eye of God that winks at sin, grace is the ability to live a new life, a life that is in conformance with the nature and life of Christ.
Paul taught us that, "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV) This is the purpose and work of grace; to teach us to be different. The great tragedy of life is that people often get caught in a loop of sin: sin, sorrow, repentance, forgiveness, and then back to sin. They find forgiveness but never find a new way to live. We see this in the Nation of Israels in the days of their Kings. They would rebel from God, God would judge them, they would cry out to God, God would save them, then they would sin again. Always sinning and never able to break the cycle of sin. However, now grace has appeared, teaching us a new way to live, teaching us how to break the cycle of sin, and in that same grace (which is the favor of God) there is also the power to live this new life: instruction to change, power to live. This is the true grace of God, this is the grace Peter exhorts us to walk in, this is the grace Jesus came to bring us. This is the true grace God, walk therefor in it!
Saturday, August 17, 2013
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (1 Peter 5:6)Why "therefore"? Because, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) Humility is the path to receiving grace from God. Thayer's translates the Greek word used for "opposed" as "to range in battle against." God has set Himself in battle array against the proud to humble them and to bring them into submission and, when God sets Himself for battle, He always wins. However, those who come to Him in humility, He abundantly pours forth His grace upon them. Solomon reminds us that, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud." (Proverbs 16:18-19 NKJV) Do you want to be great in the Kingdom of God? Do you want to be exalted? Learn to be humble and lowly. Cease trying to exalt yourself, or to climb the "ecclesiastical ladder" in order to become something great. Be humble and let God, if He so chooses, to exalt you to the place He has appointed for you. Stop striving and rest in humility.
"casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)Cares have the ability to sap the spiritual life right out of our souls. Jesus warns of those who are overcome by cares when He said, "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity." (Luke 8:14) Unfortunately, none of us are ever free from cares. Cares are part of our life inherited from Adam. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground and their life was given over to cares. "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19) We all have cares, the question is how are we going to deal with them. Peter tells us to cast them upon Jesus. This casting is both active and intentional. Our cares will not automatically be cast on the Lord, we must cast them; through prayer, worship, and fellowship with Christ we must cast them. When cares encroach our lives, we must stop long enough to turn to Jesus and give Him our cares, and this is our hope and promise, that He cares for us. We have confidence that, in casting our cares on Him, He can bear them and will complete and perfect that for which we care. "The Lord will accomplish what concerns me." (Psalms 138:8)
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." (1 Peter 5:8-9)Some have painted this life as a grand struggle between good and evil. However, we know that Good has already won and evil has already lost. There is no great battle going on between them as to which one will overcome, Good has already overcome. However, there is a battle raging on and it is a battle for the souls of men. Jesus desiring men's souls that they may be redeemed and reconciled to God, and the devil desiring to destroy men's souls and to claim them for his own that they may share his fate away from the presence of God forever. While the devil is not all powerful, he does desire to wage war against our soul and it is incumbent on us to remain sober and watchful that we might see his attack before it reaches is and to extinguish it through faith and prayer. "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16) Far better to see trouble coming and avoid it rather than having to fight hand-to-hand once it has come upon us. We should watch and pray and live our lives in such a way "that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:11) Sometimes, when the battle does come upon us, it is tempting to think that we are alone and that no one else would ever understand what we are going through; we get the "but as for me"s. "But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped." (Psalms 73:2) We must remember that we are not going though anything unique and that our brethren around us and through out the world are enduring the same struggles as we are. In times like these, we must not be afraid to reach out to others for strength and help, knowing that they will understand for they too go through struggles just like us.
"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11)
We endure but not without purpose. We struggle, but not without hope. God has promised us no to try us beyond our ability to stand. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) Our's is the victory and our's is the overcoming. We are destined to victory if we stand steadfast in faith, patience, and endurance. God has promised, "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper." (Isaiah 54:17) We just need to stand firm.
Friday, August 16, 2013
"Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed" (1 Peter 5:1)As Peter begins to wrap up his letter, he turns his attention to the elders who govern the flock of God. The Greek word for "elder" is the same word that is often translated as "presbyter" and is used by some churches today. There are several things of interest in his addressing those elders. First, the church structure of those early churches were quite simple: there were believers who made up the church and there were elders who oversaw the church. Why is it that we have made church structure so complicated? It seems we have fallen in love with our organizational charts and like to assign people to each box in the diagram, each with someone above them (with the possible exception of the head pastor) and each with someone below them (except the lowly congregant). How refreshing it would be if we could return to just believers and elders; saints and presbyters?
Secondly, Peter writes, not as their superior, not as their Pope, but as their fellow elder; as one who serves in equal rank with them all. No where in the writings of the apostles, nor those who followed them for the first few hundred of years, do we see any one of the apostles holding a superior position above the rest, as if they were to be their chief. Peter writes as one who had governed well as an elder and was writing to others whom he was exhorting to also govern well. However, there was one mark of distinction that all the apostles shared, they had personally witnessed the suffering and resurrection of Christ. While this did not give them superiority in rank and authority, it did give them superiority in revelation and teaching.
"shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness: (1 Peter 5:2)So what does a shepherd do? He leads his flock to where they can find food, he protects his flock from outside dangers, he searches out lost and wayward sheep to restore them to the flock, and he walks among them to ensure that they are healthy and well. This is what it is meant by exercising oversight. The Greek word that is translated "taking oversight" is the same word we get our word "episcopate" from and also lends itself to another word that would be used for overseers: bishop. It is important to note that the elders are to be in and among the flock; they do not stand aloof or over the flock, they are in the flock since they are a sheep just like everyone else. They are no different from any other believer except for the measure of authority and responsibility that has been given them by God. They should also exercise their responsibilities with readiness and with a willing heart, not begrudging their authority and talking it out on the sheep, but willingly, seeing their role and responsibility as a privilege not a burden. Finally, Peter calls them to voluntarily accept and embrace their service to the flock. There is no evidence from the writings of the apostles or the early church that any of the elders were paid. They acted as overseers freely and voluntarily, and understanding the great privilege and responsibility that was theirs by the will and grace of God.
"nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:3-4)All earthly shepherds must remember that there is a Chief Shepherd in heaven and that the flocks they tend are really His flocks not their own. They are given under their care for a short while that the flock may be benefited, not for the benefit of the shepherd. It's not a "me shepherd, you sheep" relationship but one of equality in worth while there is a difference in function. Peter further exhorts the elders not to be seen to "lord it over" the flock, or to "exercise dominion" over the flock, but rather to primarily lead by example. This is not to say that there is never a time when an elder must use his authority for the sake of the flock, but these times should be the exception, not the rule. Other should be able to see the character of an elders life expressed through their pious behavior and choose to follow them voluntarily. When someone must force others to follow them then maybe they need to examine their lives to see if there is anything worth following.
"You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)It is interesting that, while encouraging all to put on humility towards one another, Peter specifically singles out young men and exhorts them to be submissive to their elders. There is a natural youthful pride that attaches itself to young men and, to a lesser extent, young women. They reach an age where they desire to be independent and free from the care-taking nature of their parents and other adults. However, at this time it is important for young men and women to remember the wisdom and knowledge of those who are more advanced in years than themselves. There is a danger in casting off all authority and seeking wisdom and guidance among those of your own age. When Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, became king, the people asked him to relax the king's controls over their lives. Rehoboam counseled with his father's advisers who advised him to accept the people's request. "But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him." (1 Kings 12:8) However, the counsel of the young men who grew up with Rehoboam failed him and the people of Israel left him and the nation of Israel was divided in two. Young men, listen to your elders, there you will find knowledge and wisdom to guide and protect your life. Don't turn to your fellows, for they know only what you know, seek the wisdom of those who have knowledge of years, years spent walking with God and with His Christ.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
"For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" (1 Peter 4:17-18)In the Greek the question is more clear, this verse can readily be translated, "where shall the impious and [the] sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18 Darby) Paul teaches us that there will come a time when each of us must appear before Christ to give an account of how we lived our lives. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10) Jesus, Himself, in a parable, gave an account of that day and answers the rhetorical question asked by Peter. On that day of final judgment, Jesus will separate the people like one who separates sheep from goats, placing the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then, just as Peter teaches, judgment will begin for the sheep. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' " (Matthew 25:34) The righteous having thus received their reward, Jesus will turn to those on His left. "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels...' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:41, 46) Judgment will come and that judgment will be final.
However, some say ask, "is it time?" since so much time has passed since Peter declared, 'it is time," but Jesus himself warns us, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Revelation 22:12) The point is that, no matter how near or far we believe this final judgment to be, now is the time to live like He is coming back even as we stand here and breath. Jesus told another parable that we should be ready, saying, "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming... Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions." (Matthew 24:42, 45-47) Jesus praised that servant who did his master's bidding, not knowing when his master might return, but always working to present himself ready when his master should return. However, Jesus warns us against slothfulness in assuming that His return is still a long way off, saying, "But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 24:48-51) What is the point of all this? Jesus is coming at an hour and day we do know know, therefore, now is the time to live right, to live like He us coming back today, not to be slothful or insolent against His commandments, but to live godly and righteously and properly as children of the day.
"Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." (1 Peter 4:19)We are called to live for eternity, not for the passing pleasures of the moment. We should not live for momentary pleasures, or for the purpose of dodging temporary "light" afflictions, but we should live a life that is committed to doing what is right, for, when we live committed to what is right, we are living for eternity. Such a life is not always an easy one, but requires us to commit our life in hope and trust to the one who can save us and make us worthy of everlasting life, that being our faithful and loving creator.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12)The Greek uses a very interesting word for "surprised" and "strange thing", they share the same root that means to host or to be a guest in another's home. The idea here is that, if we wake up one day and find some stranger living in our home, we should not be too surprised that we have been chosen to be their host. We all go through periods in our life where less than pleasant times come into our lives and, like an unwanted guest, take residence with us for longer than we would wish. All of us have known times when suffering has become our new house guest. When this happens, Peter warns us not to be surprised, but simply to face it head on like we would anything else in our lives.
Some people believe that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people, yet Peter reminds us that, from time to time, even bad things happen to good people. Some people use happiness and blessing as a measure of spiritual maturity, thus implying suffering and sadness as a measure if spiritual immaturity, but the truth is that even spiritual giants, from time to time, go through difficult times that bring suffering and sadness. Even Paul said, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life." (2 Corinthians 1:8) and certainly no one would accuse Paul of being spiritually immature. Difficult times are part and parcel with our Christian life and we should not be quickly shaken when they come.
Peter also reminds us of the reason for our sufferings and trials. He calls them "fiery trials" sent to "try" us. The idea is to be placed in a smelting furnace to prove the quality and purity of our metal; that metal being our faith. Nothing we go through is without purpose or reason. God would not allow us to be harmed or suffer unless there was something precious to be gain through the experience. We must recall that Peter has already taught us that such trials bring about the "proof of your faith" and that our faith is "more precious than gold." (1 Peter 1:7)
"but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." (1 Peter 4:13)
Some translators translate this verse as not referring to the degree to which we suffer, implying that some suffer more and some less, but simply reminding us that, when we suffer as Christians, we are sharing in Christ's sufferings. We should be able to take great courage from this fact, realizing that the suffering we now endure, Christ has already endured and, in enduring, He has also overcome and, in His overcoming, we too can be overcomers. In the end, those who have shared in His sufferings will also share in His glory. This is our hope that, as Paul put it, these "momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17)
"If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." (1 Peter 4:14)
Sometimes, when we suffer, we cry out "why oh God why?" but perhaps we should cry out "thank you God for counting me worthy to suffer!" If we were just like everyone else in the world then we would not be legitimate sons of the Father and there would be no reason for the Father to train and discipline us. The writer of Hebrews says, "But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Hebrews 12:8) Also, if we are not sons, then there is no reason for the world to hate us or for our enemy, the devil, to try and tempt us away from our faith. Jesus Himself taught us, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (John 15:19) So, in a way, our fiery ordeals prove to confirm our sonship with the Father and our new life in Christ. We should rejoice that we have been counted worthy to share in such suffering and disciple of which all true sons and daughters are partakers.
"Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." (1 Peter 4:15-16)
Finally, Peter reminds us that, what he has been talking about up until this point, assumes that we are suffering for what is right not what is wrong; that we are suffering for our faith and not for our sins. If we are suffering for our sins then we should "wake up" and repent and amend our ways, but if we are suffering for Christ sake, then we should glorify God who has made us worthy of sharing in His Son's sufferings. These are the sufferings that change lives and purifies faith.
Monday, August 12, 2013
"As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:10)Recently, my wife and I have enjoyed watching replays of a British Television series about a large and noble English house set around the turn of the twentieth century. The house was named Downton Abby. The master of the house testifies that his life work, purpose, and meaning is the care and nurturing of this great house. All he has and does is for the sake of the house. However, the actual running of the house is in the hands of many household servants, each with their own assigned duties. There are butlers, footmen, valets, chamber maids, cooks, and many more. The house exists due to the care, love, and oversight of its master, but it functions because of the proper working of each individual servant. Each one know their job and their expected duties and, when each one performs their individual assigned duties, the house functions as a whole. This is the image that Peter is trying to draw for us in this verse. Each of us have a gifting and a part to play and the Church, the house of God. However, His house only functions as a whole when each of us plays our part and performs our assigned duties and responsibilities.
Peter highlights three specific key thoughts when considering our place in God's house. First, he teaches us that each and everyone of us have received something from the grace of God that we might use in serving one another. The word used here for "gift" is the Greek word "charisma" from which we get our Christian word "Charismata" or "Charismatic" and is differs from the word for "present" in that presents are given among equals while these gift are given out of favor or grace; gifts given from the greater to the lesser. It is a gift that is given without regard to the qualifications or abilities of the receiver; it is given, not because the receiver is worthy, but because the giver is gracious. The gift we have received does not testify of us but rather of the giver; it reflects Him and His graciousness, not us.
Secondly, we are to understand that these gifts we have received from God's favor and grace are not intended for our own befit or enrichment, but for the benefit and enrichment of others. It is as if God gives us a gift and then asks us to give it to another, and yet, in doing so, we are in no way made poorer but still posses gifts to be given away. We give away and yet are not made any poorer in gifts or favor with God. Sometimes our goal is for others to recognize us and the gifts we possess, rather than recognizing the need in others that our gift can fulfill. We want people to see us rather than us seeing where we can use our gift to fill a need in someone else's life. These gifts are not for show but are for serving.
Finally, we are reminded that we are only a part of a greater whole. We are only a part, meant to function with other parts, and so are our gifts and graces, they are only parts of a greater reality of what God wants to do, and is doing, in His house, which is His church. God gives us our gifts and then calls us to use them in concert with others who have received differing gifts that the manifold grace of God may be know in the church and, through the church, to the world. We cannot do it all, nor can we be all, our part only makes since in the context of a greater whole, in unison with other household servants who are also using their gifts to serve one another.
"Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)The goal of the gifts and of our service is to reveal God and to bring Him glory and honor. It is so tempting to want to be seen; to want to be seen as being spiritual or of great strength in our service, but such desires only server to occlude the view of God who is the supplier and strengthener of all gifts and service. After we have served one another, people should leave remembering what Jesus did for them, not how great we are for what we have done for them; they should remember Christ rather than us. We should be like those silent household servants who perform their duty while hardly being noticed, that the glory might go to the master of the house rather than to the servants of the house. When we speak, we should seek to speak what God wants to say and to say it in the way that reflects the heart of God; that our speaking might reflect the words of God along with the nature of God. When we serve, we should be content to be weak ourselves that the strength might be seen to be God's not ours. We should serve in a way that people encounter the love and care of God even if they forget which servant it was that acted as the steward of that love and care. It is as John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) When we increase, people begin to desire us rather than Jesus, but when we decrease, our joy is in seeing others come to know, love, and desire our master. John understood this and testified to his disciples, "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full." (John 3:29)
Saturday, August 10, 2013
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)Peter is writing from the perspective of our happening upon the "end of all things". As we approach the end of the age, there are certain behaviors we need to adopt and strengthen, certain mindsets and alertness that need to be ours, and, above all, there is the need to maintain fervent love one for another. The Greek word used here for "fervent:" means to be earnest, continual and without ceasing. It also carries the idea of intentionality. Peter encourages to be intentional in our love for one another and to ensure that that our love is extend unceasingly to those around us. Jesus warns us, speaking of the end of the age, that, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12 NIV) As we approach the end of the age, we can expect wickedness to increase, and the response of human nature will be to let our love for one another grow cold, but this must not be so among us. We must be intentional, looking for ways to continue to extend our love to others, to allow our love to be an action, more than a feeling, to find ways to express it to those deserving of it. We must never let our love for one another cease.
"Be hospitable to one another without complaint." (1 Peter 4:9)
One way we can be fervent in showing love one for another is in the practicing of hospitality. Hospitality shares the same root word form which we get the Greek word for "brotherly love." Hospitality to others, especially strangers, is a natural expression of the love and care we have for others. The writer of Hebrews encourages us never to cease to show hospitality, and includes a curious remark about those we so entertain. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2) It is unclear if the writer mean supercelestial beings or used the term "angels" in its other definition as "messengers," meaning they may have entertained messengers sent by God without realizing the hidden treasure inside the ones they were entertaining. Hospitality also means more than dinner parties, it can involve opening up our home to strangers, sojourners, and people in need. These are the ones where, after some time has passed, we might be tempted to grumble and complain against. The Greek word for "grumble" means to "murmur.," to speak complaints under our breath. On the outside we might be saying, "please come in, you are so welcome here!" but inside we are saying, "not again, this is the fifth time this week and I'm going to have to clean my whole house again after they leave." We must not let our hearts grow cold in extending our love to strangers and to those in need. Who knows who those people we accept into our homes really are, what giftings and callings they have in God, and what blessing emanate from them to those who show them love. As love never fails, let not our hospitality fail as well.
Thursday, August 08, 2013
"The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer." (1 Peter 4:7)It is understandable that the early believers would have expected, and hoped, that Jesus would return soon, even in their own life time. He had told them He would return, He just didn't tell them when. Certainly, for us, the end is just that much more closer then when they believed. However, regardless of how close His return is, we should live like it is today, for we do not know when He will return. Jesus warned us to always be ready when He said, "But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." (Matthew 24:43-44) The key to living like Jesus may return today is to live soberly. Peter uses two Greek words here that can both be translated as "sober", you could say he is asking us to live sober and soberly.
The first word simply means to be of sound mind. It is the word that Luke uses to describe the demonic that had been healed by Jesus, "and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind." (Luke 8:35) He was sober and "in his right mind." As Christians, we must learn to think rightly; to put aside childish thinking, daydreaming, speculation, and vain imaginations that we might think soberly as adult men and women of God. Essential to this is to grow in our understanding and ability to use the Word of God. As we come to more accurately know the Word of God, both written and fleshly, that being Jesus who was the Word of God, we will begin to think more like Jesus thinks and to posses a world view that is more in line with His. Philosophy is good and knowledge is good, but its the Word of God that will transform our lives and prepare us for His eventual return. Paul warns us, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8) and "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." (1 Corinthians 8:1 NKJV) Philosophy can enslave us and knowledge can make us proud, but the Word of God sets free.
The second word for "sober" means to abstain from wine for the purpose of watching. We can become so engrossed in the affairs of this world that we fail to keep watch, not just for His return, but also for those things that would endanger our lives. The question is, "where is our mind?" Have we numbed our conscience with various addictions to substances, recreation, pleasures, distractions, and even work, or are we wide awake in our spirit, watchful of all things around us? Paul encourages us, "But since we are of the day, let us be sober." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) We are of the day, now is our time to be sober and watchful. It is interesting the reason we should be watchful, it is for the purpose of prayer. The reason Peter tells us to be watchful is so that we might pray on account of what we see, either for things that might be needed by others or by us, or of things that we might need protecting from. Many of the needs and attacks against our lives can be avoided through prayer if we are able to see them in advance. When Jesus was facing the cross, He said to His disciples, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." (Mark 14:34) and yet upon returning, He found them sleeping and said, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?" (Mark 14:37) In the end, they all fled on account of Him. How different their response might have been if they could have just watched and prayed for one hour? Their watching and praying could have prepared and strengthened them for what was to come, however they were not.
Monday, August 05, 2013
"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2)Peter has already discussed many different forms of suffering as well as different reasons for suffering. Here he introduces us to one more, the suffering of the flesh. In saying that Jesus suffered in the flesh, Peter is referring to Christ's death, but not only the moment of His death, but the whole process leading up to, and culminating in, His death. His suffering was a long drawn out processes that ended on the cross; it was more than a moment; it took time. In the same way Peter is calling us to suffer in the flesh, not a suffering that leads to our physical death, but a suffering that leads to our death to this life and our old way of living. This suffering we are called to is not to a moment of dying to the world, but a process of bring death between the world and our lives; it takes time. Peter is calling us to choose a path and to purpose our lives to bring death to some things in our lives that through death we might experience new life in other areas of our lives. This is the same process which Paul calls us to when he said, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5 NKJV)
The promise of Peter is that, if we will thus suffer in the flesh then, once death to sin has been achieved, we will be free from sin never to have to repeat its cycle again. Paul puts the promise this way, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13) Death is the ultimate remedy to sin. For example, say that I am hopelessly addicted to chocolate and I can never pass a candy counter without buying chocolate. Then imagine one day I die and, there I am laying in my casket, and you come up to offer me chocolate. No matter how hard you try, you will never tempt me to take another bite of chocolate for I am dead to chocolate. It is possible to suffer such in the flesh as to achieve death to sin and thus freedom from it and its temptations. If we purpose with our mind to deny our flesh, to reject its temptations and desires, to consistently put out its cries over the things it lusts for, then eventually we will put those desires to death and enjoy the promise that Peter makes, a promise of being free from sin. However, such resistance may take more than a moment. Like Jesus it may be a process of suffering, but death to sin brings freedom. Paul reminds us, "he who has died is freed from sin."(Romans 6:7)
"For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." (1 Peter 4:3-5)
King Solomon said, "There is an appointed time for everything and there is a time for every event under heaven." (Ecclesiastics 3:1) and some may ask, "when is the time for sinning?" Peter responds that the time for sinning is the past. Enough time has been given for sinning, now is the time for righteousness; now is the time to put to death the sins of the flesh that we might live free from sin and might live lives of righteousness. However, we must not be surprised if the world still tries to keep its claims on our lives. Perhaps some of our strongest ties with the world that must be broken are the ties to our former friends. God does not expect us to break all ties and relationships with those in the world, but we must break ties with those who seek to bring us back to the world; those who malign us for our new found faith and seek to renew us to our old familiar sins lets we should no longer be just like them. This is why Peter said we had to arm ourselves with this purpose. The putting to death of the flesh is not easy, even Jesus wrestled with this when His sweat became as great drops of blood and He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39) This death may be hard, yet it is a death we must execute on the sins of the flesh that we might walk in freedom and newness of life, even if it means separating ourselves from relationships and attachments that tie us to the world and its sin.
"For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." (1 Peter 4:6)
For what purpose? For the purpose of freedom from sin and for the attainment of new life in Christ. We will all die and our bodies will all share in the punishment of the sin handed down to us from Adam, yet our Spirits may still live through Jesus and the will of God. This Gospel was preached to their generation and was preached to those who had previously died and awaited judgement in Hades, and it has continued to be preached by those who believe even down to us today. It is our choice what we will chose to do with that message. Will be believe and respond in obedience to that message? Or will we disbelieve and reject it and share in the judgment that awaits this world and those who lived in it? The choice is ours.
Thursday, August 01, 2013
"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." (1 Peter 3:18)Suffering is permitted for many reasons. Sometimes it is for ourselves, to purify our souls and make us more like Christ, sometimes it is for Christ, to bring Him glory and honor, and sometimes it is for other people. Jesus told us, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master." (Matthew 10:24-25) Much of the suffering of Jesus was for our sake, He died for us that we might live, He became sin on the cross that we might be forgiven, He became weak that we might become strong. In the same way, it is for us to be like our teacher and suffer for the benefit of others. Paul understood this and suffered much for the sake of the elect. Speaking to Timothy he said, "Remember Jesus Christ... for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." (2 Timothy 2:8-10) Paul gladly endured much suffering, not because it was to his own benefit, but because it was to the benefit of others, that they too might obtain in Christ what he had also obtained. Jesus suffered for us, and yet, there still remains something lacking in His suffering. Paul says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Colossians 1:24) Jesus suffered in the flesh and there yet remains some suffering to be accomplished for the sake of those being saved. As we are His body and His flesh on the earth, it remains for us to full up what is lacking in Christ's suffering. This almost sounds sacrilege, but it is still our responsibility. How different might we view our sufferings if we understood that we were performing the sufferings of Christ and suffering for the sake of others?
"in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water." (1 Peter 3:19-20)
Prior to the Law, men still sinned and died even through there was not direct law they were transgressing. Paul writes on this topic, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned — for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." (Romans 5:12-14) Jesus, after His death descended into Sheol, or Hades, to speak the Gospel to those who had sinned in the past, but not in the likeness of Adam by transgressing a specific commandment of God. Jesus didn't descend into Hell, as far as I can tell no one is there yet, it is in reserve for the final judgment, but He descended into Hades, the place of departed spirits who await the judgment of the final end. Upon His resurrection, it is said that, "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." (Matthew 27:52-53 NKJV) It appears that many believed Him and received His resurrection power. I think this is what it means when it was said of Jesus, "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive." (Ephesians 4:8 NKJV)
"Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him." (1 Peter 3:21-22)
Peter is making a reference back to the flood and the Arc of Noah saying it is a type of the salvation purchased for us by Jesus. The waters of baptism are like the waters of the flood; separating the former world from the new world, separating our past life from our new life. When we go through baptism, there is an appeal to God for a life that is better, a life that is holy, just like there was an appeal to God for a better world than existed before the flood, a world where every thought and intent of man was evil. "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5) Our baptism stands between our old life of sin and our new life that is created in righteousness. We enter baptism as one already dead and emerge with a new life. "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4) How blessed we are for His salvation and this new life He has given us!